WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) – The clock has run out on a 40-year football coaching career in Polk County after a five-minute altercation Wednesday morning during P.E. class at Winter Haven High School.
Coach Charlie Tate said he decided to voluntarily step down instead of serving a suspension for the rest of the football season.
“In today’s society, I should not have done that,” Tate said in an exclusive interview with News Channel 8 Wednesday at his home. “Would I do that same thing to my son, yes I would.”
Fourteen-year-old freshman Rishon Johnson’s family reached out to 8 On Your Side after learning from the principal that trash-talking between their son and Coach Tate turned physical.
Although he’s not physically hurt, both Rishon and his parents told 8 On Your Side they are shaken up by what happened.
“I saw it in his eyes and he was not OK, you know, he’s never had to experience anything like this,” Rishon’s mom Rayshell Anderson said.
The parents are pressing charges and they have filed a complaint with Winter Haven Police. Coach Tate said he provided police a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“No child should have to go through someone grabbing them when you have officers at school,” Rishon’s father Ricky Johnson said. “That’s where you’re supposed to be protected – at school.”
Winter Haven Police interviewed Coach Tate Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m not feeling well, the whole situation just really scared me,” Rishon said.
Rishon said Coach Tate put his hands on his neck like he “choked’ him before pushing him back about 15 yards on the field.
Coach Tate denies the allegation he choked the student in an exclusive interview with News Channel 8.
“I never put my hands around his neck,” he said. “I grabbed his sweatshirt and my hands were (on his shirt). It was the second time we touched. I was nervous. I’m not a young person to take on a teenager I might get my fanny whipped.”
In 2018, Coach Tate briefly lost his job after an accusation of pushing a shopping cart into a student. He was reinstated after the State Attorney’s Office found no evidence to support a simple battery charge.
But that incident raises a red flag for Rishon’s mom.
“This is the day he does it no more and it’s gonna stop with my son,” she said.
Both Coach Tate and the family said there is video of the altercation on the football field, but that video has not yet been made public.
Coach Tate said he realizes police could charge him with simple battery again. He also offered an apology to Rishon’s family.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Again, I didn’t go out there to talk to that boy at all, so I hate it we got to this point.”
Polk County Public Schools issued this statement to News Channel 8 about the incident and Coach Tate’s resignation:
“”Winter Haven High coach Charlie Tate voluntarily resigned today. Polk County Public Schools is conducting an internal review regarding a report of a recent interaction that Mr. Tate had with a student during a PE class. We cannot comment further due to the pending nature of our internal review. You can contact the Winter Haven Police Department to see if they can provide any further information.
According to our records, Mr. Tate was briefly terminated by PCPS in 2018 following an incident at school involving two students. The matter was reviewed by the State Attorney’s Office and did not result in criminal charges. Mr. Tate was reinstated by PCPS and received a three-day suspension.”