A former Duval County Public Schools paraprofessional and girls basketball coach accused of kissing and fondling a 12th-grade Westside High School student in 2017 has been stripped of his state teaching credentials.
The state Education Practices Commission permanently revoked Luther Funches' Florida educator certificate and permanently barred him from applying for another in this state, according to a final order filed last week.
Funches, 35, was fired a day after an incident was reported, the order said. Schools spokeswoman Laureen Ricks said he was hired in February 2017 and was in his initial probationary period.
The complaint stated that during the 2017-18 school year Funches "engaged in inappropriate physical contact" with the 18-year-old student by kissing her as many as 11 times.
Funches and the student, a girls basketball team manager, also were in an in-school suspension classroom during an Aug. 29, 2017, incident, according to the school district's investigative report.
They denied having intercourse, but two other female students who looked inside a window said they appeared to be having sex. They said the girl was bent over a desk, Funches lifted her skirt and moved back and forth behind her, according to the report.
The statements Funches made to a Sheriff's Office investigator about the incident differed from what he later told a School Board police investigator.
Funches said in his Sheriff's Office interview that they had kissed, he shifted her panties and touched her leg with his penis but did not penetrate, according to the report. He later denied those actions and told the school police that he and the girl "had feelings for each other" and had "formed a close relationship," but their only physical contact was a few kisses and hugs.
The girl told the Sheriff's Office investigator they had previously kissed but initially denied anything happened in the in-school suspension classroom because she "didn't want to get anybody in trouble," according to the report. Then she said Funches had pulled up her skirt but did not pull down her panties, and she "felt something on her leg." She said they did not have sex and gave a similar description of the incident to the school police.
Funches was "guilty of gross immorality or an act involving moral terpitude," failed to protect the student from physically or mentally harmful conditions and "exploited a relationship with a student for personal gain or advantage," according to the order. However, the Sheriff's Office did not pursue criminal charges because the student was legally an adult.
Funches did not respond to the complaint or seek a hearing. The order said documents were sent to him in Greensboro, N.C. He could not be reached for comment.
Beth Reese Cravey: (904) 359-4109