A 27-year-old language arts teacher at J.W. Mitchell High School resigned this week after admitting to a sexual relationship with a female student.
Jeffrey Charles Ford, who worked as a teacher and an assistant football coach at the school since August 2003, called a school administrator on Sunday night to disclose his relationship with the 18-year-old student. He met with the administrator on Monday and resigned.
"Obviously, this is certainly not allowable behavior and won't be tolerated," Pasco County School District director of employee relations Terry Rhum said Thursday.
Because the student is 18, Ford is not facing criminal charges. The student's name is being withheld to protect her privacy.
District policy and the Florida Department of Education's code of ethics say a teacher-student relationship is "just not appropriate under any circumstances," Rhum said.
Ford's resignation stunned his colleagues.
"I'm saddened by it. I'm shocked by it," the school's football coach, Scott Schmitz, said Thursday. "He's a good person, he's a great teacher, he's an outstanding football coach, but he made a very wrong decision."
When asked why Ford, who is married, came forward and admitted the relationship, Schmitz said that Ford is a "deeply religious guy," who had "a lot weighing on his conscience."
As of Thursday, Ford's personnel file showed he was a teacher with consistently high marks and excellent references.
Staff members at Aurora East High School in Illinois, where Ford worked as a student teacher in the spring of 2003, described him as an excellent teacher with a stellar attitude and work ethic.
"In fact, I will not hesitate to say that in my sixteen years of teaching, Jeff has proved himself to be one of the finest student teachers to come to my classroom," Aurora East English teacher Christina Boyles wrote.
And his application for employment with Pasco County schools shows a man devoted to helping his students.
"As cheesy as it may sound, what I most want to do in life is impact teens to make good decisions and become positive members of society," Ford wrote in his application.
But Rhum said Pasco County will be reporting Ford's relationship with the student to the Department of Education.
Ford could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
As for his colleagues, one said he won't abandon Ford.
"I don't condone it," Schmitz said. "But I won't turn my back on him."Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report. Mary Spicuzza covers education in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6241. Her e-mail address is mspicuzzasptimes.com.