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Teacher accused of sex with student

Mary Jo Spack has had no other disciplinary issues.

Mary Jo Spack has had no other disciplinary issues.

TAMPA — "Sex," "teacher" and "student" meet again.

A 45-year-old high school honors teacher was arrested Thursday, accused of having sex with a 17-year-old boy.

Police say Freedom High School English teacher Mary Jo Spack, 45, met two male students at a liquor store last Friday, then took them to a Tampa motel, where she had sex with one of them in the shower as four other students overheard in the next room.

Spack's arrest, police said, was spurred by rumors at the school. The boy's boasting about having had sex with a teacher eventually caught the attention of a school resource officer, Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.

This latest teacher scandal comes one week after another female Hillsborough County teacher was arrested after being accused of having sex with a 14-year-old from Davidsen Middle School, where she taught.

Thursday's news prompted one Hillsborough County School Board member to request a special meeting or workshop to discuss the recent rash of teacher sex scandals.

"I think the public feels this is an epidemic, and I'm very concerned about it," said School Board member April Griffin.

Four Hillsborough teachers have been arrested in the last five months for inappropriate sexual contact with students. Three of those teachers were women.

Two other female teachers, former Greco Middle School teacher Debra Lafave and former Wharton High teacher and coach Jaymee Wallace, are serving out sentences for charges they had sex with underage students.

"I'm just sick to my stomach about what's going on in our schools at the moment," Griffin said. "Is this Hillsborough County, or is this something that's going on across the nation?"

School district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said system leaders were blindsided by the allegations against Spack, who has been with the school system since 2000.

The Wesley Chapel resident has had no prior disciplinary issues, Cobbe said. She taught at Chamberlain High until transferring to Freedom in 2004.

And though Spack's personnel reviews weren't made available to the Times Thursday afternoon, Cobbe said she received satisfactory evaluations.

Andrew McAlister, a professor at the University of Tampa, taught with Spack during the spring 2006 semester at Freedom High. He described her classroom demeanor as "really lively, really engaged" — someone he looked up to.

"She was very good at getting and keeping students' attention," McAlister said. "She would say she's big, she's loud, she's boisterous. The students always liked that about her."

His knowledge of Spack didn't mesh with the police allegations. And he said he wants to see what happens in court.

"If you asked me if that was something Mary Jo would do, I would say no. & I don't know a person there who would think she'd be less than professional."

According to McElroy, the police spokeswoman, Spack purchased a bottle of Crown Royal at a liquor store, then drove the 17-year-old victim and another 18-year-old Freedom student from the store to a Howard Johnson Express Inn on Fowler Avenue.

The students, meanwhile, text messaged other friends that they were having a party, McElroy said.

Once there, police say, Spack shared the liquor with the two students. Three more Freedom students, whose ages were unavailable Thursday, arrived.

Spack and the 17-year-old went into the bathroom. According to Spack's arrest affidavit, the remaining four students could hear the two having sex in the shower. When Spack and the boy emerged from the bathroom, both appeared wet, the arrest report says.

Spack is charged with two counts of contributing to the delinquency of minors and one count of unlawful sex with a minor.

Police took a motel receipt into evidence.

Spack was released from Orient Road Jail on $8,500 bail at 8:30 p.m., four hours after she was booked.

Public records and newspaper clippings indicate Spack is married and has a daughter. No one was home Thursday afternoon at her home in Wesley Chapel. A phone message left at Spack's home was not returned Friday evening.

Prior to joining Hillsborough County, Spack interned at Land O'Lakes High School in Pasco County. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of South Florida in 2000, receiving a bachelor's in education.

Spack has been placed on paid leave by the school system, pending review of her case by the School Board.

Griffin, the School Board member, said the spate of incidents begs numerous questions.

"Are women who do this more sensational than men who do this?" she asked. "Is this something that's always happened and just been covered up?"

Richard Gartner is a New York psychologist and psychoanalyst and author of several books about sexual abuse. He said the most likely answer is that society until now has been more permissive of women who have sex with underage boys.

>>fast facts

Other incidents

Hillsborough County female teacher sex charges:

March 20, 2008

Mary Jo Spack, a 45-year-old honors English teacher, accused of having sex with a 17-year-old boy after buying liquor and bringing him to a motel.

March 13, 2008

Stephanie Ragusa, a 28-year-old math teacher, arrested and accused of having sex with a 14-year-old boy.

Oct. 23, 2007

Christina Butler, a 33-year-old special education teacher at Middleton High School in Tampa, arrested, accused of having sex up to a dozen times with a 16-year-old boy.

Oct. 8, 2007

Former Wharton High School teacher and coach Jaymee Wallace pleaded guilty to having a sexual relationship with a student who played on her girls basketball team. Wallace is scheduled to be sentenced today in Hillsborough Circuit Court. She previously rejected prosecutors' plea offer of three years in prison.

November 2005

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

Teacher accused of sex with student 03/20/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 6:41pm]
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