Bluffton wrestling coach, accused of assaulting student, taken off leave

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comJune 6, 2014 

— A Bluffton High School wrestling coach and social studies teacher, accused by a student of striking her on the buttocks, has been taken off paid administrative leave and remains an employee of the Beaufort County School District, a spokesman said Friday.

John Hollman, 45, was charged May 24 with assault and battery after a female student accused him of slapping her buttocks during a fashion class May 21.

He was placed on paid administrative leave May 23, pending a district investigation. He continued to earn his $50,819 annual salary for the 11 days he was on leave, spokesman Jim Foster said.

The district concluded its internal investigation Friday, and Hollman will be taken off leave todaySaturday. The district refused to provide further details of the investigation and its conclusion, saying it is a “personnel matter.”

Reached Friday, Hollman said his attorney, Tabor Vaux, has advised him not to comment. Vaux also declined to comment.

Hollman will face assault and battery charges June 17 in Bluffton Municipal Court.

On May 26, Vaux said, “From what I understand now, this is something that should have been handled through the school system, not the courts.”

Foster would not say if Hollman faces disciplinary action as a result of the district investigation. When asked if his employment status could change based on the outcome of criminal charges, Foster said, “Employment matters are separate from judicial proceedings.”

Superintendent Jeff Moss said Hollman has a contract with the district — signed before April 25 — for the 2014-15 school year, which begins Aug. 11 for teachers. The 2013-14 school year ended Friday.

Hollman has been the wrestling coach at Bluffton High since it opened in 2004. Before that, he held the same title at Hilton Head Island High School and also was a Seahawk assistant coach for several years.

On the day of the alleged incident, Hollman went in to a fashion class to ask the teacher a question, according to a Bluffton Police Department report.

The student said she was lying on a table when Hollman smacked her buttocks, which caused stinging and redness, the report said. The student said that a girl behind her asked why Hollman did so, and he replied, “It’s OK, I know her like that,” the report said.

The student reported the incident to the teacher, Melissa Ricks.

The day after the incident, Hollman told a school resource officer that he reached out and tapped the student on the buttocks as if she were one of his wrestlers, to reinforce Ricks’ directive that she get off the table, the report said.

Ricks said she had not asked the student to get off the table, according to the report.

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