Jefferson County fired its popular football coach at the start of the month, but didn’t give a reason. Now a documentary about the Jefferson County School System and its transition into the state’s first charter school district is shedding light on why Leroy Smith was removed.
Earlier this year Jefferson-Somerset football coach LeRoy Smith was honored for his work with the school’s football team. It had just made playoffs for the first time in seven years, and several of its senior players had college offers. At the time, Smith talked about the importance of supporting the dreams of students.
“People like Lazarus Tucker, he basically didn’t have the support, didn’t play football until his junior year until I came on campus. Now he’s going to school," Smith told the State Board of Education in March.
The Gadsden County native played football for Florida State University and also played professionally for a few years. He’s spoken about how growing up in a rural area has informed his approach to teaching in Jefferson, and he runs a non-profit called Diamonds in the Rough, which combines athletics with academics.
According to a new documentary from Florida Public Radio station WLRN, the Jefferson Sheriff's office wanted to arrest Smith for instigating a 2017 brawl at the newly-merged Jefferson Somerset school where 15 students were arrested.
“If I started that fight, I would have walked away. Because my name is bigger than the job. It happened last year, and it’s a new year. I’m not going to bring up the past for it to resurface. Its gone. It’s wiped away," Smith said in the documentary.
He says he warned the administration a fight may be brewing. WLRN also reports Smith interrupted classes, assaulting a staff member and was most recently reprimanded for a profane outbust over his salary.
The story is part of the documentary, Chartered: Florida's First Takeover Of A Public School System.