Injunction hearing for suspended J.I. Burton football coach set for Aug. 26

Mike Still • Aug 13, 2019 at 11:26 AM

NORTON — A motion by suspended John I. Burton High School football coach James Adams to be reinstated is set for Aug. 26 in Wise County and Norton Circuit Court.

The Circuit Court Clerk’s office confirmed Monday that Adams’ July 30 request for an injunction against the school board is scheduled for 11 a.m. before Circuit Court Judge Tammy McElyea.

In a suggested temporary injunction draft filed Aug. 1 by Adams’ lawyers, Steven Minor and Richard Kennedy, the school board would be blocked from continuing Adams’ suspension upon posting of a $500 injunction bond on Adams’ behalf.

Adams’ status as a school system employee has been in question publicly since July 10, when the board voted to keep Adams as the football coach at Burton and to move him from his teaching post at the high school to an in-school suspension teacher at Norton Elementary and Middle School.

Two former students said during that meeting’s public comment section that Adams sexually harassed them when they were in his class.

Adams has been under paid suspension since June 24, when he was notified by letter from Superintendent Gina Wohlford of such and that he was not to be on school property or be in contact with current students.

The board in June also hired the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police for investigative services. One of the students who accused him of sexual harassment at the July 10 meeting later confirmed that she had been interviewed by someone from VACP.

The Norton Police Department in July also referred another complaint of inappropriate conduct by Adams to the Virginia State Police for investigation.

The Norton School Board did not mention the hearing in open session at Monday’s regular August board meeting. After presentations from Burton’s spring sports coaches and monthly financial and accounts payable reports, Wohlford said that first-week enrollment numbers were in line with projections under the 2019-2020 budget.

The school system ended its first partial week with 775 K-12 students and started Monday with 780 students, Wohlford said.

After business and board comments, the board entered a closed session to discuss an unidentified specific employee and to ratify employment of another employee. City resident Crystal Dorton also met with the board during closed session. In a brief statement during the meeting’s public comment session, Dorton said, “Bullying is a real issue at Norton Elementary, and it needs to be brought out into the open.”

After the session, the board approved hiring of several teachers, paraprofessionals and other staff. The board also approved an updated substitute teacher list and a request for home schooling a student.