From The Trussville Tribune staff reports
CLAY –A Jefferson County grand jury returned two felony indictments against a former volunteer coach at Clay-Chalkville High School, according to court records.
Willyncia Joy Harper, 23, of Hoover, is charged with being a school employee engaging in sex act with a student under the age of 19 and school employee having sexual contact with a student under the age of 19.
Harper was arrested in February of 2017 on the charge of second-degree sexual abuse, which was upgraded to a felony, as well as being charged as a school employee engaging in a sex act or deviant sexual intercourse with a student under the age of 19 years.
Harper was a former volleyball player at Clay-Chalkville High School, and according to CCHS Principal Michael Lee helped the school’s volleyball team during practices. It was during that time when she allegedly engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a 15-year-old female student.
On Dec. 7, 2016, the School Resource Officer at the high school was informed by school administrators of an alleged inappropriate relationship between the student and the coach.
Related article: Sheriff investigating inappropriate relationship between volunteer and CCHS student
The mother of the child told investigators that on Dec. 6, she arrived at the victim’s father’s home to pick up the child. She found the child there alone with coach. The mother felt uneasy about the situation and questioned her daughter.
After initially denying any inappropriate behavior, the child admitted to having a relationship with the coach, who was a volunteer assistant for the volleyball team on which she played. The mother informed school administrators the next morning.
Detectives learned the coach met with the girl at the father’s home after school on several occasions between October and December 2016 and they had allegedly engaged in sexual contact during these visits. When the coach was questioned, she denied any wrongdoing and said that she thought of the relationship as being like sisters. She denied any sexual conduct
Harper was also arrested in 2013 in Shelby County for an alcohol violation, possession of marijuana and hosting an illegal house party.
During the initial investigation, Clay-Chalkville Principal Michael Lee said Harper was not an employee of the school, but did occasionally help during volleyball practices. The victim is a 15-year-old student.
“This is not a teacher at Clay-Chalkville High School,” Lee said. “This wasn’t a situation with a normal volunteer coach. She was just a former student that would come in and help at practice some.”
At the time of Harper’s arrest, according to Alan Collins at WBRC, JECOED superintendent Craig Pouncey said Harper underwent a background check and passed it.
“Let me rectify that statement,” Pouncey said. “At that point and time, I assumed she was a volunteer coach. I was corrected. What I said was that all volunteer coaches are required to go through that process. At that point and time, I was unaware that she was not a volunteer coach. As it was first presented to me, it was a volunteer coach we were reporting on.”
Pouncey then said Harper did not go through any vetting process because she was not submitted as a volunteer coach.
“She was nothing more than just a spectator at the time,” he said.
Only volunteers who are with the program on a day-to-day basis are required to go through the board’s process, and afterwards are subject to the process of the Alabama High School Athletic Association. Having former school athletes come back isn’t unusual, and in most cases the visits are positive.
Those who aren’t full-time volunteers are the responsibility of coaches and athletic directors.
“All high schools have alumni who come back after going off to play college ball. A lot of times, they serve as a motivating factor for kids. Showing them if they do what’s right, you can get an education through athletics. That’s important, Puncey said.
“That’s something we have to depend on our coaches and athletic directors to keep an eye on. We just have to depend on our coaches that proper behavior is always adhered to and that they’re compliant with board policies,” Pouncey said. “We have to be very careful who will be allowed to regularly be around the kids. We have a process at the board office where they have to go through the same thing a teacher would have to go through.”