Ex-SPS coach Ronnie White charged with failure to register as sex offender

This story has been updated to include comments from a spokesman for Springfield Public Schools after White was arrested last week. 

A retired Springfield teacher and coach who admitted sexually assaulting a student in the 1990s was charged Tuesday with failing to register as a sex offender.

If convicted of the felony, Ronnie White faces up to four years in prison.

White, 70, was arrested Thursday evening at a travel trailer parked on property in the 3100 block of North Neergard Avenue. The property is just north of Interstate 44 and just south of Grandview Street.

According to a probable cause statement used to charge White, the property owner said he’d been staying there since Dec. 5.

Registered sex offenders are required to notify law enforcement of a new address within three business days of moving.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol’s sex offender registry lists White as a non-compliant absconder with no current address on file.

In 2016, White pleaded guilty to deviate sexual assault of a former student at Parkview High School in the 1990s. At the time, she was ages 14 and 15. A judge sentenced him to seven years in the Missouri Department of Corrections, but he was only required to serve a few months in a sex offender assessment unit.

White was given five years probation and told to register as a sex offender when he was released from jail in December 2016. According to the probable cause statement, White is required to update the registration every 90 days for the rest of his life.

Lisa Simmons, Greene County sex offender registrar, told the News-Leader last week that White had previously registered with the county and provided a valid address. On Nov. 1, White registered and listed an address on Valley Water Mill Road, where he’d long resided with his family.

Simmons recently notified Greene County Sheriff’s deputy John Webb that White was no longer compliant with the registry. It was not immediately clear what prompted her to make that determination.

According to the statement, the deputy visited White’s former address on Valley Water Mill Road and learned that the house had been sold in early December and the new owner had been living there for more than a month.

The sheriff’s office obtained information White was possibly staying in the travel trailer, made contact with the property owner and then knocked on the trailer door. White was taken into custody without incident.

Ronnie White mugshot from the Greene County Jail. (Photo: Greene County Jail)

During an interview at the sheriff’s office, White said he forgot to report his address as required, the statement said.

Nathan Chapman, Greene County assistant prosecutor, successfully prosecuted White in 2016. 

White has been in jail since the Thursday arrest. Chapman asked for a bond amount of $10,000. Judge Mark Powell set the bond at $1,000.

White retired from the Springfield district in 2010. Three years ago, a former student — now in her 40s — told Springfield police officers that White fondled her, engaged in oral sex and digitally penetrated her behind closed doors at her home and at Parkview.

White was charged in 2015 and pleaded guilty the following year. At an August 2016 hearing to determine jail time, a Greene County prosecutor dropped a bombshell: The woman was not the first to complain about White.

The News-Leader fought for, and obtained, the confidential school personnel records for White. They are typically closed to the public, but his were available, eventually, because they had been obtained by the police and included in the criminal case file.

The records showed there were complaints — about sexual comments, touching and other inappropriate activity — involving at least 10 underage girls. They also showed he was moved or was transferred to at least five different schools and that at least a dozen school employees were told there was a problem, including teachers, counselors, principals, school police officers and human resources officials.

Stephen Hall, chief communications officer for the Springfield district, said after White’s arrest last week that district officials were “disappointed to learn that this individual reportedly failed to fulfill the requirements of his sentence.

“We strongly believe that he, and others convicted of crimes, should meet the expectations imposed by the court,” he said. “We support a full investigation and advocate for the individual to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, as appropriate.”

Hall said the district is “appalled by the actions for which this individual has already been found guilty.”

“In the 10-plus years since this individual was employed by our district, much has been done within SPS to better ensure the safety and well-being of our 25,000 students,” he said. “We want to be clear: the behavior demonstrated by this individual is indefensible, unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Creating a safe, secure environment for our students to learn, grow and succeed is our number one priority — every day.”

To read more about the News-Leader’s investigation into the complaints against White, go to News-Leader.com/FiledandForgotten.

CLOSE

When a former Springfield coach and teacher was charged with sexually abusing a student, it seemed like an isolated incident. But school personnel records obtained by the News-Leader show female students had complained about Ronnie White for years.
Nathan Papes/News-Leader

 

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