Highlands teacher arrested for sexting student

Posted at 11:33 AM, Feb 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-19 17:51:21-05

A Highlands County middle school teacher is now behind bars, accused of having a sexual relationship with her 14-year-old student.

Arrest reports state that Stacy Hooks, 38, of Sebring, developed an inappropriate relationship with one of her students at Hill Gustat Middle School, where she has been working as a middle school math teacher. The victim was 14 years old at the time of the incident, reports show. 

The Highlands County Sheriff's Office said the victim's mother filed a report with the sheriff's office. Deputies also notified DCF, which is protocol.

Investigators searched the victim's phone with his mother's permission and found Hooks sent nude pictures of herself, including a collage of her buttocks. Investigators also said the phone revealed text messages, showing a sexual relationship between the teacher and student.

Investigators said Hooks also traveled from Sebring to Lake Placid to take part in one of the sexual encounters. The relationship started as early as May 2015 and lasted until investigators got involved this month.

"Cases like this, we tend to find that there has been a slow seduction process and the young person has a lot of confidence in the adult," said Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton.

Hooks has been arrested on five counts of lewd battery, three counts of transmission of material harmful to a minor by electronic device and one count of traveling to meet a minor to engage in unlawful sexual conduct. All of these incidents occurred within Highlands County, deputies said.

Highlands County Sheriff's deputies arrested Hooks and took her to the Highlands County Jail without incident. Her bond is set at $625,000, jail officials said.

While Hooks is behind bars, the investigation continued Friday. Deputies conducted several searches.

"They're doing search warrants on her home, on her car, doing the digital forensics on computers," Benton said.

Hill Gustat parents said they felt horrified and betrayed upon learning about the charges.

"I have no words to say to her other than it's just disgusting," said Parent Jeremy Mikel.

The Highlands County Sheriff's office is urging parents of kids who may have interacted with Hooks to talk to their children. Hooks was also a youth football coach and was around a lot of different children.

"It would give the young folks the opportunity to open up and talk," Benton said.

Benton said she is hoping and praying there are no other victims out there.

The school board plans to place Hooks on suspension without pay at their next board meeting, and will pursue plans for termination at their March 8 board meeting, said Highlands County Schools Deputy Superintendent Rod Hollinger.

Hooks has been a teacher with Highlands County schools for 15 years, teaching both in elementary and middle school. She has been at Hill Gustat Middle School since 2012.

The investigation continues; anyone with additional information on this case is requested to contact Detective Orlando Esquibel at the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit, 863-402-7357.

Anyone with information who wants to remain anonymous is asked to call Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS (8477).