MIAMI – A former high school principal was indicted Wednesday on charges that he failed to report on-campus sex crimes to protect a star running back who eventually led his team to a state title.
Dwight Bernard, the former head of Northwestern High School, turned himself in after the indictment was released. He was taken to Miami-Dade County Jail and officials said he was posting $10,000 bond.
The misconduct charge dates back to last September, when Antwain Easterling, then an 18-year-old senior football player, allegedly had sex with a 14-year-old freshman on the floor in a school bathroom. It was described as consensual but, because of the students' ages, is considered a crime under state law.
The indictment claims Bernard was alerted about the incident by other school employees about a month later and was told it needed to be reported. It was not.
The grand jury report claims Bernard didn't report the incident and another related one because he feared it would negatively impact the top-ranked football team.
"They hoped that it 'would all go away' and allowed for the glory of football to trump the needs and safety of a little girl," the report said.
All told, the report said 21 school employees were aware of the bathroom tryst. According to the grand jury, school police only became aware of it after the girl's mother encountered an officer in December at a coffee shop.
The school district never disciplined Easterling. He was arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious battery, but entered a pretrial program that will wipe his record.
Michelle Delancy, the attorney representing Bernard, said she was disappointed by the charges and that her client is "the convenient scapegoat of a failed system of accountability within the Miami-Dade County Public Schools." She said he is innocent.
Bernard was removed from the principal's job in March. Easterling has committed to play football at Southern Miss.
A telephone listing for Easterling could not immediately be located. An email was not immediately returned.