FW school district investigates Jerome Collins for ‘unprofessional conduct’

Allegations against Collins determined to be unfounded, according to the district.

Jerome Collins, a Lakota Middle School teacher and former Federal Way High School basketball coach, is on administrative leave pending an investigation into allegations of unprofessional conduct, according to Federal Way Public Schools.

Collins was placed on leave on Jan. 21, according to a FWPS letter obtained by the Mirror through a records request.

“From what I gather from the situation, the detective found the allegations 100% false,” Collins said on an April 1 phone call with the Mirror.

Collins said he hasn’t made the decision whether he will return to teaching in the Federal Way district. He is a physical education teacher at Lakota Middle School.

“I love what I do,” he said on the call.

As of April 1, Collins remains on paid leave, according to the district. FWPS is on spring break through April 8.

“The district cannot comment on the nature of the allegations, as they have been determined to be unfounded following thorough police investigations. The district is working to complete our process,” said Whitney Chiang, spokesperson for FWPS.

In 2020, Collins returned to teaching after a third-party investigation found he violated the district’s code of conduct by failing to report a 2016 incident of a videotaped sex act involving former Federal Way High School basketball players. The case was settled in 2020 for $425,000, the Mirror previously reported.

Collins, who has taught in the district for nearly 40 years, was a PE teacher at Federal Way High School before he was moved to Brigadoon Elementary School. In fall 2021, Collins was relocated again to Lakota Middle School.

The Mirror initially requested information on Feb. 4, asking if the district was investigating Collins for possible misconduct allegations. The Mirror also asked if he was placed on paid leave.

“On January 21, 2022, an allegation of unprofessional conduct was reported to the district. The district immediately responded and placed the employee on administrative leave while an investigation is conducted,” said Chiang.

The district refused to verify if Collins was the employee under investigation in early February and when asked again in mid-March.

On Feb. 11, the Mirror submitted a records request seeking any documents provided to Collins notifying him of an investigation and any notice provided to Collins about being placed on leave. The records request was fulfilled by the district on April 1.

“[Y]ou are directed not to contact, in any manner, staff of the district while the investigation into the allegations is in progress,” the letter to Collins states, adding that he is prohibited from visiting district property unless directed. He was also told “not to retaliate, in any manner, against any students, their parents and employees of the district or witnesses involved in this matter.”

In addition, Collins is prohibited from using any of the district’s computer systems, and was asked to turn in his keys, security access card and other district-issued equipment, according to the letter.

The letter notifying Collins of the investigation and informing Collins that he has been placed on administrative leave was hand-delivered to his home address, and the bottom of the notice notes Collins “refused to signed [sic]” to acknowledge receipt.

In September 2021, a Change.org petition was created urging the removal of Collins from his job at Lakota Middle School. As of April 1, more than 2,100 people have signed the online petition.

In the 1990s, Collins also faced accusations of sexual misconduct.

An investigation launched after two former students accused him of sexual harassment in 1994 was inconclusive in establishing that sexual harassment occurred, according to a letter from Thomas Murphy, then-assistant superintendent, to Collins. However, the investigation found instances of Collins’ poor judgment.

“This poor judgment has been displayed in slapping female students on the buttocks and inappropriate joking with female students,” according to the letter. “The inappropriate joking refers to the necklace incident of which you are familiar and also inappropriate remarks whispered to a third student. You are hereby formally reprimanded for this conduct. A copy of this reprimand will be placed in your personnel file. You should understand that any further incidents of this nature will lead to more severe disciplinary action. The maintenance of proper boundaries of behavior between teachers and students is extremely important to teacher and student alike.”

In 1999, a student filed a complaint against the former coach stating he “constantly asked her to kiss him, said he wanted to see her naked, rubbed her stomach and kissed her,” according to a Seattle Times article.

The Mirror has also requested documents on the details of the 2021 allegations made against Collins and will provide information once available.

“Federal Way Public Schools places safety as our top priority, and we have systems in place to support student and staff safety in our schools,” Chiang said of the recent allegations. “We take any and all allegations seriously, and an investigation is conducted for every allegation. In this case, a police investigation determined the allegation to be unfounded.”