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Bail set at $50,000 for Hillsborough teacher accused of relationship with boy, 12

TAMPA — A judge Friday told fifth-grade teacher Ethel Anderson to stay away from the 12-year-old boy she is accused of molesting.

That means no more text messages.

The boy's mother discovered numerous "inappropriate" text messages from Anderson after growing suspicious of the relationship, which began in December when Anderson was hired to tutor the boy, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.

"No contact means you can never see these people again," Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Walter Heinrich told Anderson during her first appearance.

The boy was not one of Anderson's students.

In the courtroom, prosecutors made no mention of the text messages exchanged between Anderson, 29, and the boy, citing only the victim's testimony as evidence.

Bail was set at $50,000 for Anderson, who faces three counts of lewd battery and two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation.

She had been held at the Hillsborough County Jail without bail since her arrest Wednesday night.

"She's entitled to a bond," Heinrich said. "This is not a case where the defendant can be held without bond."

Anderson's lawyer, William Knight, argued that she could be released without risk of running away or contacting the boy.

"She's not going anywhere if released except staying at home," he told the judge. "Any conditions the court will impose she is going to abide by."

Anderson's husband, Michael, 30, father-in-law Gene Anderson and a family friend attended the first appearance.

They sat uncomfortably on a wooden bench in the back row of the courtroom's observation area. They wrung their hands, bit their nails and shifted uneasily as they watched Ethel Anderson stand before the court.

As the judge rattled off Anderson's charges, Michael hung his head. The men did not go before the judge to speak, and they declined to speak with reporters.

An investigation was launched after the 12-year-old told his mother he didn't want to go over to Anderson's house for tutoring any more, Carter said. After finding the text messages, the mother called the Sheriff's Office.

Anderson had been tutoring the boy since December. She would go to his home, pick him up and bring him back to her home, where they would engage in sex acts, deputies said.

Anderson's arrest came as a shock to her colleagues at Mango Elementary, where she was named diversity educator of the year for 2011 and has a spotless disciplinary record.

She began teaching at Mango Elementary as an intern and was hired full-time in 2006. Anderson, who had tenure and was earning $39,000 a year, has been ordered not to report to the school until the criminal investigation is resolved.

She has been placed on paid administrative leave, but Hillsborough school officials said it's likely the School Board will vote to suspend her without pay.

School officials said counselors were available Friday at Mango Elementary to discuss Anderson's arrest with students.

Contact Marissa Lang at mlang@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386.

Bail set at $50,000 for Hillsborough teacher accused of relationship with boy, 12 03/02/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 2, 2012 11:41pm]
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