Tuesday, May 21

‘Joy and gratitude:’ Former Palm Beach Central High School principal ‘blessed’ after criminal charge dropped

Clearing his name.

For the first time since he was arrested nearly eight months ago, WPTV spoke exclusively with the former principal of Palm Beach Central High School in Wellington after a criminal charge against him was dropped.

Darren Edgecomb and four other school employees were accused of failing to report a suspected sexual assault between two students off campus back in 2021.

The overwhelming feelings Edgecomb expressed to WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind on Tuesday were joy and gratitude to move beyond this phase of his life.

“I’m feeling relieved. Grateful. Blessed. Just exhilarated for my family more than anything,” Edgecomb told Susskind. “Just a sense of joy and gratitude. Just thank God for his favor, and just grateful this phase of life is over, and looking forward to moving forward. I felt that, in the end, the truth would come out and I would be exonerated. But boy, it was a painful transition. And I had no idea the process would be as long.”

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Edgecomb was prepared to be on trial this week, but was pleasantly surprised when the State Attorney’s Office on March 15 dropped the charges against him and the four other employees.

“My first thought was, how could this happen? How could I be accused of something?” Edgecomb told Susskind. “And the thought of harming a kid or doing anything to put a kid in danger was just foreign to me.”

Edgecomb, a career educator in Palm Beach County, is reflecting on the past seven surreal months after he was arrested on July 24, 2023.

“The sheriff’s department arrived at Palm Beach Central High School as I was exiting to go home,” Edgecomb said. “They approached the vehicle and they told me they had bad news. And then they went on to say, did I know what it was about? And I had no earthly idea.”

The charge was failing to report a suspected case of a student’s sexual assault by another student off campus in 2021.

“I was still in shock, I’m pretty certain, for the next 24 hours. And then went through that entire phase of being booked and transported. So it was a horrendous experience,” Edgecomb said.

“When this all happened in 2021, do you feel you did everything appropriately?” Susskind asked Edgecomb on Tuesday.

“Yes, I did. Emphatically,” Edgecomb answered. “I was aware of the moment and understood the magnitude of it. A principal with 10-plus years and 35 years in the district, and an educator as a life calling, I was very emphatic about crossing T’s and dotting I’s and involving personnel in the district. Getting support for questions I needed answered. And just as a district, we did everything we thought possible to support students.”

“And you did make that report to the [Florida Department of Children and Families?]” Susskind asked.

“Yes,” Edgecomb replied. “We investigated it. We followed the district’s policy dealing with teen dating and teen sexual abuse, with knowledge that the alleged incident happened off campus.”

“Why do you think these charges were brought against you?” Susskind asked.

“I have no idea. I have no idea,” Edgecomb answered. “I have no idea what the motivation was. As principal, you saw so many problems in the course of a day. And in the course of a year and a half, those problems are only magnified. So why it happened, I may never have an answer to that. But I’m just glad it’s resolved and we are able to move forward. And I wish the best for everyone involved.”

As his career and reputation flashed before his eyes, Edgecomb said he relied on his family and faith to get through day by day, until March 15. That’s when the State Attorney’s Office announced the charges were dropped, in part because the alleged victim couldn’t remember key aspects of the case.

“We don’t regret our decision to pursue justice here,” state attorney Dave Aronberg told WPTV on Monday. “It’s just that sometimes, when new developments come out, new evidence comes out, it makes it impossible for us to move forward.”

“I think the takeaway here is you can only do what you can do. It’s very difficult to lead in fear. So you can’t lead thinking, what will go wrong, and what happens if this happens? All you can do is cross the T’s, dot the I’s, and do your job to the best of your ability,” Edgecomb said. “The name is clear. And I’m very proud of the name.”

Now that the criminal portion is over, the School District of Palm Beach County’s Office of Professional Standards will complete its own investigation, and that will really determine where Edgecomb’s career goes from here.

Edgecomb told Susskind he wants to continue to impact students’ lives and be a leader, admitting that he misses his everyday life on a high school campus.

“I miss it. I haven’t been on the campus. I haven’t been on any campus and I miss that,” Edgecomb said. “Anything you do for 35 years, it’s odd not being a part of it. Words can’t express how much I miss it.”

“Do you think you’ll ever be a principal again?” Susskind asked Edgecomb.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Edgecomb answered. “It’s not my decision. This is a life calling. I talk about my faith and family and job. Those are my priorities in life. I would like to impact kids in some form or fashion. I would like to be a part of the School District of Palm Beach County, and I would like to be a leader. So I have no idea what the future holds. I’m thrilled right now. I have such gratitude that I’m in this situation and that the outcome was favorable. We feel blessed.”

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