James E. Smith Sr. BR.cheercoach.020918

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Brookstown Middle School Principal James Smith was placed on administrative leave Friday pending the outcome of an investigation spurred by complaints of sexual harassment at Smith’s other job as head cheerleading coach at Southern University.

The East Baton Rouge Parish school system has tapped Assistant Principal Cindy Grimmer to serve as Brookstown’s acting principal in the interim.

The school system’s investigation follows an earlier investigation by Southern that led Smith to resign last week from his part-time job as head coach of the Jaguar’s co-ed cheerleading squad.

Attempts to reach Smith Friday by phone and email were unsuccessful.

Smith, who has worked with the university's cheerleaders for more than 20 years, was accused of "inappropriate sexual contact" by two students. Smith immediately resigned when he learned about the allegations, said a university spokeswoman. Nevertheless, the university is moving forward with its own internal investigation, which it plans to complete within 60 days, per federal Title IX requirements.

Janene Tate, the university spokeswoman, defended the decision not to alert the East Baton Rouge Parish school system before an Advocate reporter contacted school officials on Thursday.

“Since it was an allegation and the investigation is ongoing, we did not nor were we legally required to,” Tate said.

Tate said the university has been in contact with the school system since. She said their investigations are separate.

According to his Louisiana teaching certificate, Smith earned a bachelor’s of science degree from rival Grambling State University in 1993 before earning a master’s degree in education from Southern in 1997.

Smith became principal of Brookstown Middle School in 2015 after serving as assistant principal there for a year. He previously served as assistant principal at Glasgow Middle School.

Advocate Staff Writer Rebekah Allen contributed to this report.

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.