How a Florida man kept teaching after his educator certificate was revoked
Kenneth Griffin’s teaching certificate was revoked after he was accused of sending sexual messages to a student. He went on to get at least six more jobs.
When the state revokes a teacher’s license, you might think that means that person can’t teach anymore.
But that’s not always true.
Kenneth Jermaine Griffin’s Florida educator certificate was permanently revoked after he was accused of sending sexual messages to a student in Hillsborough County.
10 Investigates confirmed Griffin went on to get at least six more jobs in education, including two teaching jobs.
On Wednesday, more than a decade after his educator certificate was revoked, he agreed to a plea deal on federal child porn and animal crush video charges.
Revoked: 2010 Myspace messages lead to Griffin’s license being permanently rescinded
After teaching at Tomlin Middle School from 2004-2007, Kenneth Griffin became a reading teacher and cross-country coach at Plant City High School.
Records from Hillsborough County Public Schools show he was accused of sending explicit Myspace messages to a 15-year-old he used to coach at the high school in January 2010.
Those messages included comments and questions about the boy’s body, including his private parts, and told the boy to masturbate in the shower, according to the records.
10 Investigates showed those messages to child abuse pediatrician Dr. Randy Alexander.
“Creepy,” said Dr. Alexander. “It certainly looks like enticing, grooming.”
According to a state record, a Hillsborough County Public Schools District Investigator handed Griffin a resignation form when he was brought in for questioning at school three days later.
Griffin signed it.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office never opened an investigation.
A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office tells us that’s because the messages didn’t meet Florida law’s standards for “Transmission of Materials Harmful to a Minor.”
Basically, since that Myspace chat didn’t include porn, they say it wasn’t a crime.
“The deputy felt no crime had been committed by Mr. Griffin in this situation, the school district handled it instead, and that’s why there’s no HCSO record of it,” Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Public Relations Coordinator Merissa Lynn told 10 Investigates in an email.
“It makes you think about these red flag laws that are happening about guns and things. Where, let’s not wait until somebody shoots up a bunch of people. Can we get in and intervene before that point?” said Dr. Alexander. “Maybe this will be an opportunity for people to sit down and sort of ask themselves, you know, is there something further we can do?”
Griffin denied sending the messages, but the state Education Practices Commission didn’t buy it.
They permanently revoked his Florida educator certificate in November 2011.
State law says that means a person can’t teach or have any job requiring direct contact with students at any district school board or public school in Florida.
Next Jobs: Griffin kept working in education
After resigning from teaching at Hillsborough County Public Schools in 2010, Griffin went on to get at least six more jobs in education over the next decade, including two teaching jobs.
Griffin worked as an Academic Advisor and Recruiter at the University of South Florida from 2012 to 2014.
Then he moved on to Saint Leo University as an enrollment counselor from 2015 to 2017.
Griffin moved out of state, working at District of Columbia Public Schools as a teacher from 2017 to 2018.
Then he moved back to Florida, working at Cristo Rey Tampa Salesian High School as Director of Recruitment and Talent for a few months in 2019.
He went back to Saint Leo University as a student success coach from 2019 to 2021.
Then Academy Prep Center of Tampa hired him for a teaching job in 2021.
Head of School L’Tanya Evans told 10 Investigates that Griffin was fired in January 2022, after Homeland Security told the private school about the federal investigation that led to his arrest in April.
So, how was he able to get these jobs in education if his educator certificate had been taken away?
Anyone who looked up whether Griffin had a Florida educator certificate online would have seen it’s permanently revoked.
You can look up the status of Florida educator certificates by clicking “Public Search” in the upper right corner here.
But for the schools to know, they would have to actually take that step to look it up.
The common thread we found at those jobs was that none of them required a Florida educator’s certificate.
You don’t need to have an educator certificate to teach in a Florida private school.
Academy Prep Center of Tampa Head of School L’Tanya Evans confirmed the school didn’t look up the status of Griffin’s educator certificate when he applied because it’s not a requirement for the job.
And since the sheriff’s office never opened a criminal investigation into those 2010 Myspace messages, that wouldn’t have shown up on Griffin’s background check.
“I don’t know that, given the constraints of what they had, it’s obvious as to what they could have done more and sooner. I think part of it is just the system we have – that there’s a way to kind of zigzag through the cracks of the system, if you will, and do what he did. And he was able to exploit that,” said Dr. Alexander.
A Mom's Perspective: She wishes action had been taken sooner
Twelve years after he was accused of sending sexual messages to a teen on Myspace, Griffin was arrested in April.
On July 27, he agreed to a plea deal, pleading guilty to one count of distribution of child porn and one count of possession of child porn.
We spoke to a mom who tells us her son was in those images.
We are not naming her to protect her son’s privacy.
“I lost it. I lost it. I hit the ground in my office and cried. Like a baby. Screaming,” she said. “He’s been diagnosed with PTSD…He cannot be alone with a male. He’s tried to commit suicide twice.”
The mom we spoke to said she wishes action had been taken about Kenneth Griffin sooner.
“He got his license revoked, but he still taught. He was still around other people’s kids. I mean, he basically got away with it,” she said.
The Case: Child porn and animal crush video accusations
A court record says Griffin “encouraged [a] former student to sexually abuse a one-year-old child, record it, and provide [him] with a copy of the child pornography.”
Griffin also pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of an animal crush video – that’s video of animals being sexually abused.
After 10 Investigates broke the news of Griffin’s arrest in April, we got flagged about a conversation blowing up in the comments on social media.
Another guy’s name kept coming up: Michael Conover.
We found that, six months before Griffin’s arrest, Conover was indicted on a distribution of child pornography charge. Court records show he has also been offered a plea deal.
A court record in his case says Kenneth Griffin referred to Conover as one of his former students. It's unclear whether he's the former student referenced in Griffin's indictment.
10 Investigates wrote a letter to Griffin in jail and repeatedly reached out to his lawyer asking to hear Griffin’s side of the story. We haven’t heard back.
We also reached out to Conover’s lawyer, who said they have no comment.