Former West Florence High School teacher, basketball coach files lawsuit alleging he was pressured to quit

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FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – A lawsuit has surfaced accusing Florence One Schools of defamation, fraud and misrepresentation, among other allegations.

The lawsuit was filed in October 2018 by Peter Ellis, of Florence. Ellis is a former West Florence High physical education teacher and basketball coach.

He is alleging that school administration pressured him to quit and damaged his reputation.

While he was employed by the school, Ellis held a record of 117-108 in eight seasons, the lawsuit said. He led the boys’ varsity basketball team to a 2nd place ranking statewide.

The lawsuit claims that Ellis was pressured by several school administrators, including the recently resigned athletic director and interim principal Kelvin Wymbs, to resign from his position as basketball coach. Ellis says he was never given a clear reason as to why they wanted him out.

School officials reportedly assured Ellis that his teaching job would be secured as long as he resigned from coaching. But they pressured him to make a quick decision- or lose his job altogether.

The lawsuit continues by alleging that school administrators were hostile towards Ellis after learning his wife reported the situation to the school district’s human resources department.

It also claims the district became aware of Ellis’ attempts to find a job with another district and that the district “knowingly, purposefully, wrongfully, and maliciously interfered with the Plaintiff’s prospective contractual relationship with said districts.”

That interference, Ellis says, stemmed from defamatory social media posts. He claims that the school district disseminated false statements to the public, which spread on the web. One Facebook post said that Ellis “was stealing money and not turning in canteen money and summer camp money. This has been going on for YEARS!!”

That’s why Ellis says that other school districts told him “he could not be hired for fear of him harming their reputation.”

Ellis alleges that the charges that surrounded his removal from his coaching potion were “baseless in fact, false, and recklessly disregarded the truth.”

Ellis is seeking punitive damages in an amount to be decided by a jury, along with compensation to cover attorney fees.

The Florence One District has not returned News13’s request for comment.

The full lawsuit can be read here.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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