COLONIAL HEIGHTS — School Superintendent Dr. William Sroufe said the school system handled its investigation into alleged improper behavior by one of the high school coaches who also was the Colonial Heights police chief “promptly and appropriately,” and called accusations of a cover-up “inaccurate.”
In an email to The Progress-Index Friday night, Sroufe also denied the existence of a letter reportedly sent by an assistant softball coach on the complaints against Jeff Faries, saying there was “no record” of one in the school files. He also claimed the Virginia State Police had already investigated the allegations against Faries and found no evidence of any attempts to cover them up.
The school chief’s comments — his first public statements about the Faries issue since news broke about the allegations earlier this year — came after a state legislator sent a letter Thursday to VSP asking for an investigation into how the school system handled the Faries case. Del. Mike Cherry, R-Colonial Heights, said he asked the state police to intervene out of concern that parents’ trust in the school system had begun eroding amid the back-and-forth over Faries.
Faries was placed on administrative leave last April after allegations arose that while serving as the Colonial Heights High School girls’ softball coach, he had initiated inappropriate contact with some of his players. By the time those accusations came to light, he already had resigned as the team’s coach.
The state police investigated the allegations and turned their findings over to Lynchburg commonwealth’s attorney Bethany Harrison. Harrison concluded that misdemeanor charges were warranted, but she could not file charges because the statute of limitations for them had expired.
Earlier this month, Richmond television station WTVR reported that one of Faries’ former assistants had sent a letter to the school system claiming that he had acted inappropriately with her and she saw him do the same with other team members during the spring of 2021. However, Alicia Allen told the TV station that the letter “was brushed under the rug” by the school system.
“Recent allegations that the school system has engaged in a cover up regarding former softball coach Jeff Faries are disappointing and inaccurate,” Sroufe said in the email to The Progress-Index. “Colonial Heights Public Schools takes all complaints of inappropriate or unprofessional behavior very seriously. Concerns regarding Mr. Faries were investigated and addressed promptly and appropriately by school staff.”
However, a letter from Harrison to a Colonial Heights city councilor last September appears to dispute that. In the letter, the prosecutor wrote that “because of the delay in reporting these matters to law enforcement for a criminal investigation, we are beyond the statute of limitations to charge the applicable misdemeanors from these events.”
Addressing Allen’s letter, Sroufe wrote, “[A] thorough review of the school system’s electronic records was conducted and there is no record of any such letter being sent or received.”
Sroufe said the school system cooperated with the state police’s initial investigation. “To our knowledge, neither the Virginia State Police, nor the special prosecutor found any wrongdoing or cover up by school staff,” he wrote in the email.
It was immediately unclear if that initial investigation addressed any cover-up issues.
A state police spokesperson said Thursday that VSP superintendent Col. Gary Settle “is reviewing [Cherry’s] request for an investigation.” State government currently is closed for the Christmas holiday until Dec. 27, so any decision likely would not come before that.
A month after Faries was placed on leave by the city, he was allowed to retire from the department. Thus far, he has not publicly commented on the accusations.
Bill Atkinson (he/him/his) is an award-winning journalist who covers breaking news, government and politics. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @BAtkinson_PI.
This article originally appeared on The Progress-Index: Va. local school superintendent denies system covered up accusations