Saturday, May 26, 2018
Education

Former Gulfport teacher's aide accused of sexual activity with disabled student, 16

CLEARWATER — A former teacher's aide at a Gulfport school for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities is accused of unlawful sexual activity with a 16-year-old disabled student, according to Clearwater police.

Seven months ago, Artia Patrice Davis, 30, of Clearwater, became involved with the student while she was working as a teacher's aide at Hamilton Disston School, police said.

The Pinellas County School District and Pinellas sheriff's child welfare investigators began checking out Davis' relationship with the student after getting a tip about it Monday.

Davis had already resigned March 5 while under investigation by the school district's Office of Professional Standards on another matter, school officials said.

That investigation began after reports that Davis had been seen at the Florida State Fair with students. She later admitted to investigators that she loaned a car and cell phone to a student during after-school hours.

After being told those actions would lead to a recommendation for dismissal, she resigned. The School Board accepted her resignation at its March 20 meeting in lieu of a recommendation for dismissal, according to school officials. The incident was the first blemish on her disciplinary record.

During the school district's investigation, no one made allegations of an inappropriate sexual relationship with a student, said schools spokeswoman Melanie Marquez.

She said that tip didn't come until Monday, when a student told a school employee the former aide had dalliances with the victim. The employee, following district protocol, informed child protection workers, who turned the case over to police.

Around 8 p.m. Monday, Clearwater police officers showed up at Davis' apartment at 1799 Highland Ave. A cooperative and fully-clothed Davis let investigators into the home, where authorities found the 16-year-old male student lying in her bed, clad only in boxer shorts.

Davis and the boy initially lied about their names, ages and sexual involvement before eventually admitting that they were in an ongoing sexual relationship, police spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts said.

Watts said the victim, who lives with his grandmother, was supposed to be staying at a friend's house while she was on vacation.

Davis faces a charge of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. She was released early Tuesday morning from the Pinellas County Jail on $10,000 bond.

Davis passed a background check and began working for the school district in January 2008 as a teacher's aide at Calvin Hunsinger School in Clearwater. In February 2010, she transferred to Hamilton Disston in Gulfport, where she assisted with behavior management and offered academic support to high school students at the K-12 school.

It was unclear Tuesday whether the student was in Davis' class. The school district was not able to provide the nature of the student's disability.

A Clearwater police spokeswoman said it appears there are no other victims.

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