LILBURN - Parkview students had mixed reactions Tuesday to news that the school's football coach had been reprimanded for alleged erratic behavior at the school prom.
Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks criticized Coach Cecil Flowe, one of Georgia's most successful football coaches, for acting inappropriately at the May 6 prom. Flowe was a faculty chaperone.
According to a letter of reprimand issued Monday, teachers and students speculated Flowe may have been under the influence of alcohol based on his behavior at the prom. The coach, however, attributed his actions to using prescription medicine prior to the dance for a medical condition. He has a documented history of kidney stones.
"While this may have been the case, you have conceded that you should not have attended the school function having taken the medication," Wilbanks wrote. "Regardless of the reason for your reported behavior, you are warned that any future conduct of the same or similar nature may result in more severe consequences including job termination."
The school system's Human Resources division started investigating Flowe's behavior the week after the prom.
On Monday, he met with administrators and received his letter of reprimand.
Flowe declined to comment publicly on the incident.
Though Flowe is still an employee of Parkview, he was not at work for the latter part of last week or Monday because his actions are under investigation, said Sloan Roach, spokeswoman for the school system. Flowe returned to work Tuesday.
"Although the alleged behavior was uncharacteristic of Mr. Flowe's past performance and character, the school system has taken this matter seriously and has investigated it thoroughly," Roach said.
Senior Steve Esmonde, a Parkview varsity football player for three seasons, had high praise for his coach.
"Coach Flowe is the best role model any guy could have," Esmonde said. "Everybody here looks up to him. It's just something that was blown way out of proportion, but I love the guy to death."
Flowe's actions fueled speculation and discussion about the head coach's activities on several high school sports message boards.
School Board Vice Chairwoman Louise Radloff, whose district includes Parkview, was surprised and disappointed at how Flowe acted at the dance. Though she said she admired him as a teacher and a coach, she didn't approve of his behavior.
"From what I'm hearing from the superintendent, there was a medical issue, but (Flowe) was clearly in the wrong. He shouldn't have been at the prom, whether it was a medical issue or something else," Radloff said.
Wilbanks' reprimand letter is now part of Flowe's personnel file. The coach can appeal Wilbanks' decision to the Gwinnett County Board of Education. If he requests a hearing, and the board agrees with Wilbanks' decision, the letter will stay in his permanent personnel file.
Senior David Johannaber, a former football player, said he had heard rumors about what happened at the dance, but didn't know the details.
"Usually what happens with the football coaches is that you don't really hear about it because the football players don't want to talk about it," Johannaber, 18, said. "All I've heard was that he was acting crazy at the prom."
Parkview senior Emma Brooks, 17, didn't think the reprimand would adversely affect Flowe's reputation at the school.
"Everybody loves him. Not the parents necessarily, but the students. I think everyone will just think it's funny," Brooks said.
Calls to the Parkview administration had not been returned as of press time Tuesday.