“Hillsborough County Teacher Accused of Having Sex with Student” – as shocking as that headline might sound, if you live in the Tampa Bay area you’ve probably heard it before, perhaps more than once. In the latest teacher sex scandal, a judge sentenced former Hillsborough County teacher Ethel Anderson to 38 years in prison for performing oral sex and other lewd acts on a 12-year-old student. The sex acts between Anderson and the boy took place at her Riverview home during weekend tutoring sessions.
Charged with nine counts of child sex-abuse charges, Anderson opted to go to trial and was deemed guilty by a jury. The critical evidence against her included a secretly captured recording of her admitting to the boy’s mother that she had performed oral sex on him and records showing multiple sexually graphic text messages she sent to the boy. Testifying in her own defense, Anderson claimed that the texts were sent to the boy “to get his attention for the purpose of his education.”
Perhaps the most disturbing fact is that Anderson’s case continues an all too common trend. Over the last ten years, Hillsborough County has attracted a disproportionate amount of attention for sex scandals involving female educators. The first scandal to garner national media attention involved Debra Lafave, former teacher at Greco Middle School in Temple Terrace, Florida. In 2005, the attractive 23 year-old plead guilty to lewd and lascivious battery after she admitted to having sex with a 14 year-old boy. Lafave escaped jail time and instead received three years of house arrest followed by probation. The next high profile case involved 31 year-old Stephanie Ragusa. Ragusa, a former middle school teacher in Tampa, Florida was sentenced to 10 years in prison after having sex with two of her students, ages 14 and 16.
While Anderson is not the first female teacher to engage in this type of conduct, her case is noteworthy because she received substantially harsher punishment than any of her predecessors – 38 years in prison. Why is Anderson’s sentence more severe than others like Lafave or Ragusa, who committed similarly heinous acts? Perhaps the sentence, ordered by Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe, was intended to send a message to the future teachers of Hillsborough County. In a county where sex scandals involving female teachers have been disturbingly common, the harsh sentence could serve as a deterrent to potential future offenders. “There are those that believe that nothing’s wrong if the defendant is a woman and the victim is a male,” said Tharpe. “This court does not recognize gender. If it’s proven, as an adult, that you had sex with a child, you can expect to go to prison.”
Another fact that likely contributed to Anderson’s more severe sentence was the age of her victim. Anderson initially got to know her victim as his first grade teacher and he was only 12 during the time their sexual encounters occurred. By comparison, Lafave’s victim was 14 while Ragusa’s were 14 and 16.
The physical and emotional effects of sexual abuse can last for years after the incident and may increase the occurrence of several high-risk behaviors including delinquency, substance abuse, and sexual promiscuity. If you or a loved one has been victimized, call the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today to start receiving the defense you deserve.