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Plant High tennis coach resigns after a scandal breaks over her relationship with student

TAMPA — A teacher and head tennis coach at Plant High School has resigned, amid a district investigation into allegations that she carried on an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old female student, officials said Monday.

A Tampa police report says Mary Lynn Vu, 31, kissed the student and fondled her through clothing. But she was not criminally charged due to the student's age and what appeared to be the consensual nature of the relationship, police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said earlier this month.

Hillsborough County school district officials had done little more than review that police report and summon Vu for a meeting when they received word of her resignation, said schools spokeswoman Linda Cobbe. So it wasn't clear whether there were grounds for termination.

But the district will forward Vu's file to the state Department of Education for possible sanctions against her certification, Cobbe said.

"Her form will be checked that we would not re-employ her," Cobbe added.

Vu's attorney confirmed her resignation in an e-mail, saying she hoped to make a fresh start and spare her school from the "inevitable distractions" resulting from the incident.

"Despite the detailed investigation of law enforcement and prosecutors that ultimately cleared her name, Mary understands that there will always exist a small but vocal minority that would interfere with her ability to effectively teach this coming school year," said Mark O'Brien of the firm O'Brien Bower.

Police said Vu, a science teacher, exchanged hundreds of text messages with the student, who was a member of the tennis team. According to the student, they kissed and touched each other in a classroom.

If a victim is 15 or younger, inappropriate touching could be a crime under state laws addressing lewd or lascivious offenses, police have said. The student's consent would not have mattered. But she turned 16 the week before the incident.

So police and prosecutors dropped their criminal investigation on July 9.

"We believe that it's highly inappropriate and very disheartening to have a teacher exploit their position of authority and the trust that's placed upon them by a student," McElroy said.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3400.

Plant High tennis coach resigns after a scandal breaks over her relationship with student 07/19/10 [Last modified: Monday, July 19, 2010 10:56pm]
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