Virginia State Police takes over new investigation of Norton football coach

Mike Still • Jun 25, 2019 at 7:00 PM

NORTON — The Virginia State Police (VSP) has been called in to investigate a third sexual harassment allegation against John I. Burton High School football coach Jim Adams.

Norton Police Chief James Lane on Tuesday said his department received an allegation by a “current or former student” of alleged sexual harassment involving Adams.

The latest case marks the third student since April 2018 who has made a complaint to police regarding Adams’ conduct toward female students and the fourth incident involving Adams and a student.

Lane said he decided to hand over the newest case and any future cases involving Adams and students to avoid a conflict of interest. Two Norton police officers are related to Adams’ family, he said.

Lane also said that the high-profile nature of the Adams situation and the possibility of additional cases contributed to his decision.

Corinne Geller, VSP spokesperson, on Tuesday confirmed that investigators are now working on the case at Lane’s request.

Tuesday’s announcement follows the Norton School Board’s decision June 21 decision to hire the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police to conduct a non-criminal investigation.

School Board attorney G. Rodney Young said Monday that the VACP would “conduct personnel-related investigations to assist the school division in meeting its obligations as an employer and as a public-school division in connection with complaints of misconduct against its employees.”

Neither Young nor School Board Chairman Cody McElroy would say if the VACP investigation was related to Adams.

When asked Tuesday about Adams’ status in the city school system, Superintendent Gina Wohlford said, “James Adams is currently an employee of the Norton City Public Schools. At present, he is not being asked or required by the school division to perform assigned duties.”

The school board, despite a recommendation by Wohlford to not renew Adams’ coaching contract, voted during its June 10 meeting to keep him as the high school football coach. Adams was transferred from his teaching post at Burton to Norton Elementary and Middle School.

Two former Burton students, speaking during the meeting’s public comment session, made public accusations against Adams of inappropriate comments toward them when they were in Adams’ classes.

Adams was investigated by Norton police and the city Social Services Department in April 2018 after receiving information that he had thrown a stapler at a male student and of an allegation that he made inappropriate comments to a female student about her appearance. The investigation led to a third allegation that he struck another female student on the rear with a rolled-up piece of paper.

The male student declined to file charges against Adams, telling authorities that Adams was joking with him. The allegations by the female students were viewed as not prosecutable, although prosecutors said the conduct was inappropriate.