James E. Smith Sr. BR.cheercoach.020918

James E. Smith Sr. ORG XMIT: BAT1710121600391450

UPDATE (10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 9)

East Baton Rouge Parish School System officials announced Friday morning that Brookstown Middle School principal James Smith has been placed on administrative leave as the system investigates, according to school system spokeswoman Taylor Gast. Assistant Principal Cindy Grimmer act as principal for the immediate future.

Original story 

A part-time cheerleading coach at Southern University — who is currently the principal of an East Baton Rouge middle school — resigned last week from the university after he was confronted by administrators with accusations that he sexually harassed two college students, a spokesperson for the university confirmed Thursday. 

James Smith, the cheerleading coach, remains employed as principal of Brookstown Middle School, said East Baton Rouge Parish School System spokesman Taylor Gast, adding that the system was unaware of the allegations against their employee. But Gast later added that after being alerted by an Advocate reporter, school officials were opening up an investigation and Smith would not be reporting to school on Friday.

Smith, who has worked with the university's cheerleaders for more than 20 years, was accused of "inappropriate sexual contact" by two students, said Janene Tate, Southern University spokeswoman. 

Smith immediately resigned when notified about the allegations against him, but the university is moving forward with its own internal investigation, Tate said. She said the school will complete its investigation within 60 days, per federal Title IX requirements. 

Smith became principal of Brookstown Middle School in 2015. He previously served as assistant principal at Glasgow Middle School. 

Gast said the school system had been unaware of any allegations of misconduct or an investigation at Southern University. 

"We were not aware until the story broke," Gast said. "Please allow us some time to gather more information. We will be investigating the matter further." 

Tate said Thursday evening she was unclear whether the university had notified the parish school system about the investigation. 

Smith could not immediately be reached for comment. 

Advocate staff writer Charles Lussier contributed to this report.