Former Farmington High School junior varsity basketball coach Jeremy Thompkins has been charged with criminal sexual conduct in the latest case of student sexual abuse to come to light. Like many other cases involving abuse by a coach or teacher, including the high-profile Michigan State abuse cases, the allegations also implicate other school employees who failed to take action to protect the students.

When Coaching Becomes Grooming

Thompkins is accused of assaulting two teenage boys at his Detroit home between August and October of this year. The victims, ages 15 and 16, testified at a preliminary hearing about their experiences. According to the boys, who were on the JV basketball team, “Coach J” promised to train them to get into the NBA and improve their business skills. They testified that Thompkins regularly hosted them and other teammates at his home, including overnight stays and morning workouts.

The boys recounted details of Thompkins frequently touching them in intimate, sexual ways, including during massages. Thompkins pled “not guilty” to all charges, denying any wrongdoing. He claims the incidents were misconstrued and that he never touched the boys for sexual gratification. The judge, however, observed that Thompkins’ behavior followed a classic pattern of grooming victims for sexual assault and scheduled the case for trial.

Farmington Public School District’s Response

The Farmington Public School District (FPS) initiated an investigation immediately after receiving a report from a concerned parent about Thompkins’ behavior on October 9 and reported the allegations to the Detroit police. Thompkins was fired by the end of the day.

Disturbingly, the investigation also revealed that three other varsity and junior varsity basketball coaches were aware players regularly visited Thompkins at his home. Although these visits violated school policy, the other coaches did not inform the school administrators. In response, the district also fired those coaches.

FPS has created an emotional wellness team to support the two boys and the other members of the JV team. It also sent all students’ parents a letter informing them about the allegations and detailing the district’s response.

Preventing Abusers From Working With Children

The case raises important questions about parents’ trust in the adults who guide and mentor their children, including teachers and coaches. According to FPS, all coaches, including Thompkins, were hired through EduStaff, a third-party contractor. A Livescan Fingerprint Background Check performed when Thompkins was hired in 2008 did not reveal any previous criminal violations.

However, a local news investigation uncovered Wayne County court records showing Thompkins was charged with three counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct (involving force or coercion) in 2008. Thompkins was accused of inappropriately touching a 17-year-old boy at his home under the pretense of acting as the teen’s weightlifting trainer. The case was dismissed at trial.

Comprehensive and Ongoing Security Measures

This incident underscores the need for stringent screening procedures and additional steps to monitor newly hired contracted individuals, even if they appear to have no prior criminal histories. Ironically, the district may not have learned of Thompkins’ earlier arrest because it occurred too close to his hiring. Implementing procedures to monitor existing employees could help prevent this type of oversight.

Cases of teacher-student and coach-student sexual abuse emphasize the need for continuous vigilance and proactive measures to ensure students’ safety. Schools must reinforce mandatory reporting requirements for all staff, fostering a culture where any suspicion of misconduct is immediately reported to administrators. Additionally, comprehensive background checks and regular coach training are essential to safeguarding students from potential harm.

Preventing Harm and Pursuing Justice

The Farmington case should prompt a broader conversation about improving protocols and implementing preventive measures to protect students from the devastating consequences of teacher-student and coach-student sexual abuse. A number of significant changes have been proposed to Michigan’s outdated sexual assault laws, which could help many abuse survivors pursue justice and improve the safety of Michigan schools and communities.

If you’ve been the victim of abuse by a teacher, coach, or other education professional, contact the experienced sexual abuse and sexual assault attorneys at Sommers Schwartz today for a free, no-obligation consultation.