DOVER — A Strawberry Crest High School teacher arrested in an online child predator sting had been previously banned from coaching the school’s wrestling team after detectives launched an investigation into allegations of inappropriate relationships with minors.
Anthony Michael Peace, 37, was arrested Wednesday on the high school’s campus in Dover after soliciting nude photographs online from an undercover detective posing as a 14-year-old boy, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said.
The detective was part of an undercover investigation targeting individuals seeking to have sex with minors, the Sheriff’s Office said. Peace initiated contact with the undercover detective intending to strike up a conversation with someone he believed was a 14-year-old boy, the Sheriff’s Office said. The teacher solicited nude photos and sent explicit videos of himself.
Peace was released from Orient Road Jail on Thursday on $14,000 bail, records show. He faces a number of felony charges, including five counts of transmission of harmful material to a minor.
In a written statement to the Tampa Bay Times, the Hillsborough County School District said it is moving to fire Peace.
Peace began his career in the school district at Middleton High School, where he worked as an agribusiness teacher from 2006 to 2010. He transferred to Strawberry Crest as a history teacher and as the school’s wrestling coach.
But Peace lost his wrestling coach job in 2012 when, according to his personnel file, the school district learned he was the subject of a Sheriff’s Office investigation.
Allegations were filed with the Sheriff’s Child Protective Investigative Department claiming that Peace “interacted inappropriately” with an unknown individual who was not a student in Hillsborough County schools.
Investigators determined the allegations were unsubstantiated and closed their case without finding any evidence to pursue criminal charges, the Sheriff’s Office said. But the school district’s own Professional Standards investigation into Peace raised enough concern that he lost his wrestling job and was banned from holding another coaching position at a Hillsborough County school.
School officials learned Peace told investigators he “regularly would bring students to his home to spend the night, and that it was common practice among coaches in the district,” Linda Kipley, the district’s general manager of professional standards, wrote in a memo to school officials May 23, 2012.
Peace also acknowledged that a student was living with him several days a week to attend Strawberry Crest High School, even though the student’s parents lived in Tampa. According to the memo, the student had previously attended Middleton High.
The behavior violated policies for both the school district and the Florida High School Athletic Association, Kipley wrote in a letter to Peace July 9, 2012.
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“Though there was no finding of you inappropriately interacting with your students/athletes, you are directed to never take students home with you or be alone with them for any reason at any time in or out of the school setting,” the letter said. “In addition, you are to communicate with students only through the means provided by the school district for teachers.”
Detectives and the school district said they are working to determine if any others may have been victimized by Peace. Anyone with information can call the Sheriff’s Office at 813-247-8200.