Employee file of repeat Ocala council candidate reveals poor conduct

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Posted October 11, 2023 | By Caroline Brauchler

As Reginald Landers conducted his ultimately unsuccessful campaign for the Ocala City Council this year, his campaign signs touted “Coach Reggie Landers,” a title familiar to many in the community after his decades of working in Marion County Public Schools. Landers has lost twice in runs for city council, once in 2020 and again in 2023.

But there is another side of Landers’ record that is only now emerging. Over nearly 30 years as an educator and coach, Landers has amassed a disciplinary record of multiple incidents, including criminal charges, of inappropriate conduct toward students and staff, according to documents obtained from MCPS and the Bay County Clerk of Court.

Landers began working for MCPS in 2003 as a teacher at Dunnellon High School. Since 2015, he has worked as a physical education teacher and athletic coach at College Park Elementary School, according to his personnel file.

Before coming to Marion County, Landers worked as an exceptional student education teacher at Mosely High School in Bay County. It was there, in the 2001-2002 school year, that Landers engaged in improper conduct with students, including “inappropriate physical contact, sexually oriented comments and being alone with female students contrary to district directives,” according to an administrative complaint before the Education Practices Commission of the State of Florida.

This complaint details two incidents, the first of which occurred in February 2002. Landers was said to have given an 18-year-old “emotionally handicapped” female student a ride home, when he took the student’s hand and placed it on his groin. When the student pulled her hand away, Landers was said to have exposed his genitals and placed the student’s hand on his genitals and attempted to kiss her, according to the administrative complaint.

Earlier that school year in November 2001, he was said to have used inappropriate force against a student, injuring the student’s arm while escorting him out of the gymnasium, according to the administrative complaint.

Landers did not contest the claims made in the complaint, according to the settlement agreement. He was charged with battery in Bay County after the incident with the female student, but the case was later dropped after Landers completed a pre-trial intervention program, according to the Bay County Clerk of Court database.

“As part of the pre-trial agreement, he received psychological counseling, agreed to pay for counseling for (redacted victim’s name) and he was required to complete 250 hours of community service, attend a teacher conduct/sexual harassment class, and have no contact with (redacted name) and her family,” according to the administrative complaint.

Landers was placed on suspension without pay in May 2002, then was fired from his position in Bay County, according to the administrative complaint.

Part of the settlement agreement included Landers having his Florida educator’s certificate suspended and to serve two years of probation. Within months, Landers was working again, this time in Marion County at Silver River, an alternative school, according to his personnel file.

Later, while working as a dean at Reddick Collier Elementary School in MCPS, Landers once again was reprimanded for inappropriate behavior, this time toward a coworker. In January 2011, a female employee filed a complaint against Landers, causing the district to launch an internal investigation, according to a reprimand from the office of the superintendent.

The investigation found that from August to December 2010, Landers repeatedly made comments to the other employee “relating to personal information, sexual relationships between husband and wife, request for personal phone numbers and other non-work issues.” Landers was suspended for 10 days without pay, according to the reprimand.

In his current position as a physical education teacher at College Park Elementary, Landers received mandatory counseling in January 2021 after a student reported that Landers “pushed him around and teased him,” according to a letter from the principal.

Landers was reprimanded again, in February 2022, after the district received a complaint that he had lied about his previous work experience when applying for a position with the Federal Programs and Grant Department, according to a written reprimand from the professional practices department.

This same reprimand also revealed a previous instance of lying. The document said that in 2015, Landers lied on an application for an administrative position, where he failed to disclose the 2002 incident in which he inappropriately touched a female student.

None of these instances, including former criminal charges, can stop a registered voter from filing candidacy paperwork to run for public office, however. So, “Coach Landers” has run for public office twice, promising each time to use his experience as an educator to be an advocate on city council.

The Marion County Supervisor of Elections Office does not do background checks on those who file candidacy; all a potential candidate must do is be a registered voter, file a form to appoint a campaign treasurer and a form to designate a campaign depository, according to elections staff.

When Landers filed for candidacy in the 2023 city of Ocala election, the treasurer he chose to appoint was Lisa Cummings, the wife of Marion County School Board member Eric Cummings.

When asked about Landers’ disciplinary history and continued employment with the school district, MCPS spokesperson Kevin Christian offered the following written statement:

“Mr. Landers’ career with Marion County Public Schools has involved several documented investigations. Some of these incidents included district letters of reprimand and unpaid suspension. However, investigations did not reveal sufficient evidence to take actions at the time beyond those documented in his personnel file,” Christian wrote.

When the “Gazette” gave Landers the opportunity to comment on or clarify any of the incidents that have occurred within the education system, Landers said he would reserve any comments until he could look over this article with legal counsel.

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