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Hernando coach resigns amid allegations

BROOKSVILLE — A Hernando High School coach under investigation for possible inappropriate contact with female students has resigned, school district officials said Thursday.

Eric A. Riggins, 37, was suspended with pay last month after officials learned he and another coach may have ventured into students' hotel rooms during a night of post-prom partying in Clearwater. School officials were also investigating sexually suggestive messages Riggins allegedly sent to a student, according to a document obtained by the St. Petersburg Times.

Police have opened a criminal investigation into the matter, interviewing dozens of students at the school, said Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association.

In his May 4 resignation letter, Riggins said only that "I am resigning from Hernando County School Board as a paraprofessional and as an assistant football and head boys track coach." He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Riggins was arrested in 1998 on a charge of burglary with assault. He was accused of forcing his way into a girlfriend's home and threatening to kill her, court documents show.

He eventually pleaded no contest to the lesser charge of aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, and was sentenced to probation with adjudication withheld.

He was also arrested in 2000 on charges of trying to sell marijuana to an undercover police officer, but the State's Attorney's Office declined to prosecute due to a problem with a witness.

Despite that record, the school district hired Riggins in 2003 as an aide at the alternative school. He later coached at Nature Coast Technical High School.

In 2006, the Florida Department of Education moved to deny his application for a coaching certificate, but a state panel later reversed that recommendation and gave him a provisional certificate along with a reprimand and $250 fine.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Hernando coach resigns amid allegations 05/08/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 9, 2008 6:57pm]
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