Highlands teacher reprimanded prior to arrest

Posted at 4:58 PM, Feb 25, 2016

The Highlands County school district is under investigation for failing to report possible child abuse, according to Highlands County sheriff's officials.

Sheriff's investigators are looking into what school officials knew about the behavior of teacher Stacy Hooks, and when they knew it.

Deputies arrested Hooks last week on charges of having sex with a 14-year-old student multiple times.

Action News has learned school officials at Hill-Gustat Middle School, where Hooks taught math, knew of inappropriate behavior dating back to November.

"This should have never happened from the get-go. This is a mistake," said David Crawford, who has a child enrolled in the Highlands County school district. "She should have never been around kids period."

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."

Just weeks after that letter was handed to Hooks, deputies arrested her for having sex with a 14-year-old student and sending him nude photos.

"It makes you worry to the extent, should I even send my child to a public school? Should I homebound him?" Crawford said.

Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton said her office is investigating whether the district broke state law by failing to report suspected child abuse.

Next week, the sheriff is sitting down with all administrators to go over the procedures for reporting abuse.

The school district had no comment.