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Teacher accused of having sex with teenage boy

TAMPA — A 28-year-old math teacher was arrested Thursday, accused of having sex with a 14-year-old boy.

Stephanie Marie Ragusa didn't have the student in any of her classes, a Hillsborough Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said. But she met the boy on campus while she was working as a special education teacher at Davidsen Middle School last year.

Somewhere along the way, deputies say, the two began having sex.

A school resource officer was alerted to the situation after a student came forward, Hillsborough schools spokesman Stephen Hegarty said.

According to the sheriff's investigation, Ragusa had three sexual encounters with the teen between Oct. 1, 2006, and May 4, 2007 — twice in her car and once in her apartment, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.

Over that period, the boy turned 15.

When interviewed by a deputy, the victim confirmed his relationship with the teacher, Carter said.

One of the times they had sex, he told them, was when he should have been in an after-school class. The other two times took place at night, Carter said.

Ragusa, who transferred to Martinez Middle School in Lutz this school year, now teaches seventh-grade math. The school's Web site lists her as a teacher on the Arabian Broncos teaching team.

An arrest affidavit from investigators says the victim's story was verified by his knowledge of tattoos of a flower and a bug on Ragusa that are visible only if she is unclothed.

Also, she admitted their relationship and her awareness of the potential risk involved in a monitored telephone call with the victim, the affidavit states.

Ragusa has been on paid leave since February for reasons that have nothing to do with this matter, Hegarty said. The school system spokesman said he was not at liberty to discuss why.

Hired by Hillsborough County schools in July 2006, Ragusa worked at Madison Middle for a short time before transferring to Davidsen in the middle of the 2006-07 school year, Hegarty said.

Several of Ragusa's fellow teachers past and present declined to talk about her work Thursday night, in the hours after her 4:15 p.m. arrest.

Details about the teacher were scant as news of the accusation broke Thursday night.

Public records show Ragusa purchased a home last year at 15324 Lake Bella Vista Drive with Tony William Irvin.

Neither Irvin nor Ragusa's family could be reached Thursday night for comment. Court documents list both Ragusa and Irvin as single at the time of the purchase.

Ragusa, who is 5-foot-3 and 100 pounds, was booked into Orient Road Jail just after 9 p.m., charged with five counts of engaging in lewd or lascivious battery — one count for each sexual act, Carter said.

She was being held without bail. Hegarty said Ragusa has been suspended with pay, pending review of her case.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show she was arrested in 2005 on a DUI charge, though Hillsborough County's online court records indicated the charge was dismissed at trial.

State records also show a 2004 arrest in Pasco County on aggravated battery, but again, that charge appears to have been dropped, according to FDLE.

Ragusa is the third female teacher from Hillsborough County schools in recent years to be accused of having sex with a teenager they knew from school.

Former Wharton High School teacher and coach Jaymee Wallace was sentenced last year to three years in prison and three years of probation after pleading guilty to having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl.

And former Greco Middle School teacher Debra Lafave got three years of house arrest and seven years of probation after pleading guilty in 2005 to having sex with a 14-year-old boy.

Hegarty said Thursday night that since news about Ragusa's arrest was just unfolding, it wasn't clear yet what action school administrators would be taking to inform parents about the latest incident.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

Teacher accused of having sex with teenage boy 03/13/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 18, 2008 1:17pm]
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