Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gibbs teacher dated teen girl, police say

ST. PETERSBURG — The girl's mother thought the visit to Lowry Park Zoo was a school field trip. Police say it was more like a date.

A science teacher at Gibbs High School has been charged with interference with child custody after police say he used a teacher's discount card to take a 16-year-old girl to the zoo.

St. Petersburg police arrested Darren M. Snieszko, 25, on Wednesday afternoon at his home. Investigators think Snieszko may have had relationships with half a dozen girls and are asking for information from the public, said police spokesman Bill Proffitt.

"The parents believed that it was some kind of school-sanctioned trip," he said. "He used that discount card to get in for what essentially appears to be a date."

Snieszko is the latest in a string of teachers accused of inappropriate relationships with students. In Pinellas County, a former Seminole High School teacher faced the same charge after authorities said he received a back rub from a female student. Also this month, a 22-year-old volunteer band coach was accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with two 15-year-old girls at Palm Harbor University High School.

In Tampa, former Davidsen Middle School teacher Stephanie Ragusa was re-arrested this week and accused of having sex more than 20 times with another of her students.

And, according to a state database on teacher misconduct, more than 30 Tampa Bay area teachers have faced sexual allegations that resulted in state sanctions.

The Snieszko case began on April 11 when police received nearly simultaneous tips about the teacher. A girl who had been approached by Snieszko complained to the school administration that he was having inappropriate relationships with students. The same day, the 16-year-old and her mother called police to file a criminal complaint about the field trip.

They said Snieszko, of 11682 8th Way N, No. 11, sent the girl romantic messages through, cell phones and instant messaging.

The teacher provided transportation to the zoo and paid the girl's admission. The girl admitted to some "romantic touching" but denied the relationship was sexual, Proffitt said.

It was unclear whether the trip occurred during school hours. Snieszko, who was not cooperative with police, was booked in the Pinellas County Jail on $10,000 bail.

The Pinellas County School District is investigating the allegations and put Snieszko on paid administrative leave on April 14, spokeswoman Andrea Zahn said. His time in jail is considered an absence without pay.

Snieszko was hired in Pinellas County in July 2005 and has worked at Gibbs High School since then, Zahn said.

She said he had no prior district-level misconduct complaints. According to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records, he has no previous arrests in Florida.

Zahn said Snieszko received a bachelor's degree in biology in May 2004 from Medaille College in Buffalo, N.Y. He also received a master's degree in adolescent education from D'Youville College in Buffalo in August 2005. Zahn said he is not married.

Proffitt said Snieszko and some of the victims may have been involved in the high school ecology club.

Investigators ask anyone with additional information about possible victims to call police at (727) 893-7711.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Stephanie Garry can be reached at (727) 892-2374.

Gibbs teacher dated teen girl, police say 04/30/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 8, 2008 10:40am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay small businesses give Tampa B+ for regulatory climate


    In a recent survey about small business sentiments toward state and local government policies that affect them, Tampa Bay ranked at No. 25 out of 80 — a B+ overall.

    Tampa Bay ranked No. 25 out of 80 in a recent survey about how small business owners feel about state and local government policies that affect them. | [Times file photo]
  2. Dirk Koetter to Bucs: Take your complaints to someone who can help


    TAMPA — It was just another day of aching bellies at One Save Face.

    Dirk Koetter: “All of our issues are self-inflicted right now.”
  3. Seminole Heights murders: fear and warnings, but no answers


    TAMPA — Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan elicited loud gasps from the crowd of about 400 who showed up at Edison Elementary School on Monday night to learn more about the string of unsolved killings that have left the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood gripped by fear.

    Kimberly Overman, left, comforts Angelique Dupree, center, as she spoke about the death of her nephew Benjamin Mitchell, 22, last week in Seminole Heights. The Tampa Police Department held a town hall meeting Monday night where concerned residents hoped to learn more about the investigation into the three shooting deaths over 11 days in southeast Seminole Heights. But police could give the crowd at Edison Elementary School few answers. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem


    ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

    One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations, Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST), voted Monday night to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year. FAST believes civil citations could help Pinellas County?€™s teen car theft epidemic by keeping children out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  5. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.