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East Lake volunteer suspended amid allegations of inappropriate contact with student

TARPON SPRINGS — When Jerome "Jerry" Waechter showed up at East Lake High School Tuesday at 5 p.m. for a mentoring appointment, a sheriff's deputy was waiting for him.

Waechter, 63, of Dunedin, was a volunteer mentor for East Lake's robotics team. The deputy notified East Lake Principal Bob Poth that allegations of inappropriate conduct with a student had been made against Waechter and a criminal investigation was ongoing, according to a school district spokeswoman.

The Pinellas County school district suspended Waechter Tuesday and barred him from setting foot on all district property. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office did not arrest him Tuesday and had not filed charges against him as of Wednesday evening.

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said there is an active investigation of Waechter based on allegations made by a student about a 2009 incident that happened off school grounds.

Waechter has been a volunteer at East Lake High since December 2002, according to district spokeswoman Debbie Wolfe. It was not clear Wednesday if he had volunteered outside of the robotics program. Waechter did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

Poth, the East Lake principal, sent a message to the students and their families Tuesday night informing them of the investigation and saying that deputies told him charges would be filed.

"The charges involve a female student. Her parents are aware of the situation," he said in the message.

Waechter passed the district's screening test for volunteers, which includes a search of the online sex offender registry and a criminal search in Pinellas County, said James Robinson, the district's general counsel.

Waechter has no record of district offenses or disciplinary problems. The restrictions imposed on Waechter are all pending the outcome of the investigation, Wolfe said.