WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - The Winter Haven coach accused of fondling a student faced a judge Friday afternoon, but is expected to bond out of jail.
Michael Cope worked as an in-school suspension instructor and girl's varsity basketball coach at Lake Region High School in Eagle Lake.
One day after his arrest, parents want to know why the well-known man was allowed to work for the school even with an extensive criminal history.
"If you have a record, why are you here with kids?" said Vera Mathis, whose grandson attends Lake Region High.
Mathis was appalled to hear Cope has four prior arrests including writing bad checks, driving under the influence, and domestic violence.
The school district's attorney said there's nothing on Cope's record that would have prevented him from working with the school, because he did not have any felonies and no charges involving kids.
"I mean a record is a record, and he should not be around kids, and he should not be working at the school," Mathis said.
His latest arrest on Thursday is by far the most serious.
Investigators said Cope eventually admitted to touching a 15-year-old girl's backside and breasts at school, even though he first called it an accident.
On Friday, some parents defended the coach.
Katrina Maultsby's daughter played on his basketball team for three years and never once felt uncomfortable.
"Great guy, no complaints," she said. "Never had any complaints, never any concerns. He was a great supporter of her playing basketball."
While his prior arrests may have been okay in the school board's eyes, this one will set his employment over the edge.
The board is expected to official fire Cope later this month.
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