A Mariner High teacher has been arrested for having sex with a student, according to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
James Harris, 40, a social studies teacher and the boy’s basketball coach at the school, began having a sexual relationship with a student in November, the sheriff’s office said. According to authorities, the investigation began after they received an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip.
He was booked into Lee County Jail on a sexual assault charge on a victim between 16 and 17 years old, according to Lee County Jail records. An arrest report was not available Thursday.
The Lee County School District has placed Harris, who could not be reached for comment, on administrative leave and has launched an internal investigation.
Mariner Principal Robert Butz referred questions to the school district, District spokeswoman Lauren Stillwell declined to comment due to the ongoing investigation.
The student and Harris began texting each other last summer, and it became sexual in nature, according to a news release. Harris picked up the student and took the teen to a Cape Coral residence where they engaged in sexual relations, according to the release.
Harris was hired by the school district in 2002, according to his personnel file. Harris first taught at Cypress Lake High School before moving to Mariner in 2003. His evaluations describe him as a teacher who worked well with students and was always willing to help out. However, he had trouble “demonstrating knowledge of content”, according to an evaluation for the 2013-2014 school year. His “lesson plans are lacking basic elements and are difficult for others to follow,” the evaluation states.
Harris is the all-time winningest head coach in Mariner basketball history and has led his team to eight consecutive FHSAA state playoff appearances. The Tritons, who are 19-6 this season, are scheduled to play host to Lely in the District 6A-12 finals Friday night.
Junior captain Jahmel Myers wouldn’t comment on Harris, but said, “The goal remains the same,” referring to Mariner’s quest for a state title.
Senior forward Amari Haynes echoed the sentiment.
“We’re still on the road to win states,” Haynes said.
The school district said in a statement “We will not tolerate behaviors that compromise the safety of our children.”