A high school track coach, who is accused of sexually assaulting a male student after bringing him to the school on a weekend, had a history of sex crimes against children, Florida sheriff’s office says.
A 16-year-old student at Lakeland High School came to his track coach, Jarvis Young, in August for help with sore muscles he was experiencing after their workouts, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a Sept. 15 news conference.
The student told Young, 40, he wanted help with his strength training and his speed for the upcoming track season, Judd said.
Young, who is no longer employed by the district, had been hired as a volunteer coach in December 2020 and was paid a stipend, but he did not serve in a teaching capacity, Polk County Public Schools said in a Sept. 15 sheriff’s office news release.
Young picked up the student at his home on Aug. 26 and took him out to lunch at a Mexican restaurant, according to the sheriff.
After lunch, Young told the student he had some weight equipment that he could use, and said they could go pick it up and bring it back to the student’s house, Judd said.
The two picked up the equipment and were starting to put it together when they noticed parts missing, according to the sheriff, so they went shopping at a hardware store.
Then, Young told the boy he also needed to set up some equipment at the high school, and asked if the student wanted to come with him, according to the sheriff.
Young told the student that he was a “trained massage therapist,” Judd said, and, once they got to the school, offered to massage the boy’s hamstrings to help with the sore muscles.
The sheriff said there is no evidence that Young has received any formal massage training.
The student told deputies the coach began to massage his legs and then “moved the victim’s shorts and touched the victim’s penis with his hand and then his lips while attempting to perform oral sex on the victim,” according to the news release.
The boy said he quickly jumped up and demanded Young take him home, according to the sheriff.
The student told his mother when he got home that he had been “touched inappropriately” by Young, and she told him to report the incident to the high school’s Polk County resource officer, Judd said.
The student spoke with the officer the next school day, on Aug. 28, and the sheriff’s office began an investigation.
Young soon fled the state and went to Alabama, according to the release, but while he was gone, Judd said investigators learned he had been accused of similar crimes years before.
The sheriff said Young had brought young boys that he had been mentoring to an Orlando hotel room and sexually battered them. In 2011, he was charged with conspiracy to commit sexual battery by a person in authority, but was never convicted due to statute of limitations at the time.
Then again, in 2017, another teen boy reported to the Lakeland Police Department that Young had touched him on the thigh and unzipped his pants, according to the release.
The sheriff said the boy’s family did not wish to press charges in that case.
Young was arrested on Sept. 14 after he returned to Florida and was charged with of sexual battery by custodian against a victim ages 12 to 18, lewd and lascivious by a person 24 years or older with a victim ages 16 or 17 and abuse of a child without bodily harm, according to the release.
The sheriff also said Young told investigators he knew he was HIV positive at the time he assaulted the student, and was charged with failing to inform a sexual partner of his HIV status.
Judd said it is unclear how Young was hired to work with minors in the first place, given his past history.
In a statement provided to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Fred Heid said the district would be conducting an investigation into his hiring.
“We also will be pulling a list and re-screening coaches who work with PCPS students, as well as other individuals who work with students in extracurricular programs,” Heid said in the statement. “Furthermore, we intend to increase the frequency of our background checks and add extra measures to evaluate any past reports of inappropriate behavior.”
Judd said given the nature of the crimes and Young’s position at Lakeland High School, investigators believe there is a high likelihood that he has inappropriately touched, groomed or sexually assaulted other students in the district.
“My message to the students is ‘We are going to believe you, and we are going to protect you, and we are going to make sure you have any counseling or infrastructure for support that you need. But you can’t allow this bad man to hurt anybody else,’” Judd said in the news conference.
Lakeland is about 35 miles east of Tampa.
If you have experienced sexual assault and need someone to talk to, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline for support at 1-800-656-4673 or visit the hotline's online chatroom.