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Ex-student's suit alleges rape

A former student is suing the Pinellas County School Board and a teacher she accuses of repeatedly raping her throughout the four years she attended Osceola High School in the late 1990s.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has been investigating Jeffery Myrick since December 1999, about the same time he resigned his job as a gym teacher, assistant football coach and girls' softball coach.

The girl, now 21 and living in Pinellas County, claims Myrick forced her to have sex with him at least once a month at lunchtime, between classes and after school, her attorney, Bryant Boydstun Jr., said. The contact began in 1995 when she was 15 and in the ninth grade and continued until 1999, he said.

School officials were notified of the situation in November 1999 and immediately reported it to the Sheriff's Office, district lawyer Jackie Spoto said.

Attorneys and investigators declined to comment on whether the girl, who filed her lawsuit under the name "Jane Doe," and Myrick were having a relationship. Under Florida law, sex between an adult and a minor that age is a crime even if it is consensual.

"You can't have a relationship with a minor," Spoto said.

Myrick, 36, of Clearwater, who now is a car salesman, said he did not know about the lawsuit filed Monday in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court or the criminal investigation.

"I don't have anything to talk about," Myrick said Tuesday. "I left Osceola almost two years ago."

Myrick, a former student and quarterback at Countryside High School in the early 1980s, had worked for the school system since 1988. When he resigned, he was making nearly $33,000 a year which included extra stipends for his coaching duties.

Sheriff's Office records show the contact between the student and Myrick began in January 1995, spokesman Sgt. Greg Tita said. In November 1999, she described the incidents to her employer, who encouraged her to come forward, Tita said.

She eventually contacted school officials, who then reported the situation to the Sheriff's Office. Tita said the girl did not cooperate with investigators, though, until May of this year.

That's when the case was turned over to the State Attorney's Office, he said. Officials there declined to comment.

Boydstun said his client sued before the criminal inquiry is over because of the statute of limitations on when a suit can be filed for what happened years ago.

Spoto and Tita said they did not know of any similar allegations made against Myrick by students, but Boydstun said there are other victims.

"It was a pattern with him," Boydstun said. "He got too close from what we know."

The suit accuses the School Board and Myrick of negligence, assault and battery, and negligent affliction of emotional distress. It also claims that the school system "had actual or constructive knowledge of Myrick's unfitness in the form of his past record prior to his hiring by the School Board and his actions while he was a School Board employee."

Spoto denies that claim, saying Myrick was hired just after he completed college and had no prior criminal record.

_ Times staff writer Kelly Ryan and researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.