PHS football sex scandal

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A sex scandal involving several members of the Pensacola High School Tigers football team took place when, on October 17, 1995, more than a dozen male students at the school coerced a 15-year-old female student, described as learning disabled, into performing oral sex on many of them in a women's restroom and later in the stadium locker room.

The girl was supposed to be in an in-school suspension class at the time, as punishment for missing a day of school, but went to the stadium after being left unattended by the teacher. She transferred to a different school a few weeks later after reportedly being ridiculed by other students who knew about the event. Her mother later told authorities she had been forced to perform the sex acts.

The event was reported to school administrators, but Principal Horace Jones did not inform school district or police authorities until a month later, on November 15, after a woman told Superintendent Bill Maloy the rumors she had heard. During that interval, the football team had gone on to win its final three regular season games and a district championship, prompting accusations that Jones — himself a former NFL player — intentionally delayed reporting the event to preserve the team's chances of winning a state championship. Jones denied the accusations and said he did not come forward because he had heard only unsubstantiated reports of the event.

Eight students, most of them football players, were indicted over the incident. Seven struck plea bargains, pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of committing an unnatural and lascivious act, in exchange for six months' probation and 60 hours of community service. The eighth indicted student, Robert Reeves, pleaded not guilty and was ultimately acquitted by a jury.

Jones, who had already been removed from office temporarily for failing to evacuate the school during a bomb threat in March 1996, was accused by a grand jury of covering up the incident and threatening to fire a guidance counselor who wanted to come forward, but was not indicted. He was fired by Superintendent Maloy on June 3. A year later, Superintendent Jim May attempted to reinstate Jones as principal of Woodham High School, but was overruled 3-2 by the School Board. He has gone on to serve in other school district capacities.