Loophole allows ex-teacher accused of having sexual affair with student to work with children

CLEARWATER - A former teacher's aide who resigned after allegedly having a sexual affair with one her students was also a counselor at the Long Center in Clearwater.

Artia Davis, 30, resigned from Hamilton Disston school March 5 after she was accused of lending a student a car and a cell phone.

Davis was fired from the Long Center on Tuesday. On Monday, a student reported the alleged sexual activity and the case was turned over to law enforcement.

She was on the schedule as a camp counselor as recently as Saturday. Davis had done seasonal work there for the last five years, according to the City of Clearwater.

"Pretty scary," said Amy Bush, who frequently brings her kids to the Long Center for swimming classes. Her husband, Matt Bush, said he was concerned but not surprised.

"Yeah it's irresponsible, but I mean you hear it more and more every day now," Bush said. "I mean it's almost like you're numb to it anymore."

Florida law has a loophole which allows summer camps to avoid licensing, unlike other programs for children such as daycare centers. Without licenses, the state has no way of checking whether summer camps do background checks on their employees.

The City of Clearwater told ABC Action News in a statement that it performed an FDLE criminal background check on Davis last year, along with other members of its personnel at the Long Center. No law violations on Davis were found. A spokesman wrote that another background check would have been performed this year. In 2011, the Long Center added level 2 screenings, which it said involved sending fingerprints to the FBI and getting a clearance letter from the Department of Children and Families.

Bobby James of Clearwater takes his two daughters and son to the Long Center pool, and is disappointed to hear the state doesn't have more safeguards with regards to summer camp programs.

"That's one of those things that I would assume they would be doing because they work with our kids," James said.

One of the most notorious cases of a criminal slipping through the system was Mark Kuzara in 2007. Just released from prison, he was hired as a counselor at the YMCA in Lakeland. Soon after, he lured 15-year old Stacey Gloe to his home, where he stabbed her to death.

Because state lawmakers haven't added stricter regulations for summer camps, parents considering sending their kids to such programs may consider asking whether the organization does background checks on employees.

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