Scott Gowan, a decorated, veteran coach at Chiles High School, was placed on administrative leave last week for the second time this school year after a student filed a complaint against him. Gowan was cleared by the Leon County school district after bullying allegations in October by a different student.
Gowan received a complaint from a parent of an athlete saying Gowan had bullied and harassed her daughter. The victim’s lawyer, Tim Jansen, said in a statement there is a fine line between pushing athletes to be their best and bullying and emotionally crippling kids.
The recent complaint putting Gowan back on administrative leave described Gowan hitting a student during a weight-lifting class. The complaint was sent to the district's safety and security division, where it was determined an investigation would be opened.
After the first investigation into Gowan was completed, Chris Petley, spokesman for Leon County Schools, issued an official statement. Petley believes there may be a possibility Gowan is innocent.
"While the district found that in some instances Coach Gowan's behavior was in violation of district policy, other allegations were not supported by the evidence," Petley said.
The student from the October incident and her family decided it would be best for her to transfer t o another high school in the district.
Two of Gowan's former runners, Avery Bartlett and Jared Grigas, spoke highly of Gowan when asked about the allegations against their former coach.
"I have heard people call him a bully and that just isn't true. He gets mad at people because he cares about them," Bartlett said. "I easily say he is the most passionate coach in the state of Florida under any sport. At times it was very stressful being under him, but in the end it was well worth it.”
Grigas says he ran for Gowan for four years and did not think negatively of him during his time on the team.
"He was a strict disciplinarian, but at no point did I think he crossed a line in terms of his aggression towards his runners. The kids that don't get along well with him tend to be the kids who cut corners and don't equal his passion for the sport," Grigas said.
Gowan came to Chiles High School when the school opened in 1999, taking over both the boys and girls cross country and track programs. During his 30-year career Gowan has claimed 17 state titles.
The physical education classes Gowan teaches will be covered by a substitute, and he will continue to be paid during the investigation as it is outlined in his contract, according to the school district.
Gowan will not be allowed to return back to his duties as a coach until he is once again cleared from the charges against him.