Highlands School Board to decide teachers' fate

Posted at 9:47 PM, Mar 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-09 00:05:15-05

Three teachers in Highlands County are being investigated by the Sheriff’s Office and the school district for sending or receiving naked pictures of students.

By the end of Tuesday night, one of those teachers, Stacy Hooks may be out of a job.

Hooks is already in jail on charges of having sex with a 14-year-old student and exchanging naked pictures with him. She is facing additional charges of nine counts of child pornography after deputies found pictures of the teenager on her cellphone.

Sheriff Susan Benton met with school leaders Tuesday to discuss awareness of the mandatory reporting requirements when there is suspicion of child abuse, neglect or sexual activity. She says state law requires everyone to report suspected inappropriate relationships between teachers and students regardless if they work for the school system or not.

“Once people cannot trust us to police ourselves or protect those we are charged with protecting, very often your trust level deteriorates,” Benton said.

Now the Sheriff’s Office is investigating possible criminal activity by the school.

ABC Action News has learned school officials at Hill-Gustat Middle School, where Hooks taught math, knew of inappropriate behavior dating back to November. Despite this, records show officials only gave her warnings instead of reporting her.

Documents in Hooks' personnel file show Hooks was warned back in November about inappropriate behavior with a boy on a school bus.

Witnesses reported Hooks was constantly touching and hugging the child. In another complaint, the teacher allowed the boy to drink out of her cup in the classroom.

In a letter of reprimand in Hook's personnel file, the principal wrote, "You are to have no student in your classroom before or after school."

Parents say this scandal is an embarrassment to the district and the teachers responsible need to be held accountable.

“It’s absolutely inappropriate, and unacceptable but it does not reflect a district wide sickness or a district wide problem,” said Jane Hancock.

The other two teachers accused of inappropriate relationships with students are Sebring High School teacher Amanda Roser-Cannady and Avon Park High School teacher Bridget Silva.

Detectives say Cannady sent naked pictures of herself to two 18-year-old students. She has since resigned. Silva is on administrative leave. The Sheriff’s Office says their cases are under investigation. Its unclear if Cannady will face criminal charges since the students she’s accused of sending pictures to are 18.