PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - WEB EXTRAS: Click here to see our database that lists names and state documents for local teachers who have been criminally charged and convicted and have had their teaching license suspended or revoked. (No access mobile)
Teachers are hired to enlighten and empower students, but the Contact 5 Investigators found South Florida teachers are also being fired for kissing, groping and, in some cases, molesting students.
"Do you want to kill me or get me in trouble," asked Carol Flannigan to a student in 2004. The former Boynton Beach music teacher was heard over the phone admitting to a 19 month affair with a 5th grader.
For the first time, we hear the police recorded conversation as 49-year-old Flannigan professed her love to the student she started having sex with when he was 11 years old.
Flannigan: "I love you so much that I would die for you."
Student: "Do you think it was right to have sex with me, Mrs. Flannigan?"
Flannigan: "I don't know what's right in this world. In this world, yes, it was not right."
Flannigan was just released from prison this year, after spending 5 years behind bars.
While a case like Carol Flannigan sounds extreme, the Contact 5 Investigators poured through every substantiated case of sexual misconduct by teachers in Palm Beach County and along the Treasure coast.
Since 2006, the Contact 5 Investigators found nearly three dozen teachers across St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach counties have been caught inappropriately engaging students.
The following is a love letter written to a student by a high school reading teacher: "Your lips are so sexy. I love to look at them and play with them. Of course, I love to kiss them that should go without saying."
The teacher, who we are not identifying because she wasn't criminally charged, later resigned and her state teaching license was eventually revoked.
In 2009, 29-year-old Geneva Henry was working at Jupiter Christian School when she admitted to police that she texted inappropriate language to a 14-year-old student.
"I want to rip all of your clothes off and have sex with you to the point of ecstasy."
Geneva Henry was arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious conduct. She agreed to a plea deal and avoided jail time.
"Schools are supposed to be where you can send your children and feel safe," said Assistant Palm Beach County State Attorney Daliah Weiss. Weiss spent years prosecuting sex crimes.
Among her most notorious teacher cases: Andrew Foster. Foster was a beloved Palm Beach County drama teacher who was thrown into the spotlight in 2007 when he was accused of having sex with two students, getting one of them pregnant.
But Foster, who was convicted and sentenced to 5 years in state prison, is one of just a handful of teachers criminally charged for their sexual misconduct against students.
Weiss explains why some teacher sex cases never make it to the State Attorney's office. "They can be difficult to prosecute just like any child sex crime can be difficult to prosecute. Many children are going to be reluctant to come testify against a teacher."
In addition, many teachers like Foster plead guilty to the crime so they can avoid long prison sentences. Foster and Flannigan both served just 5 years behind bars.
"While the number of years in prison may seem small, the impact is large. This person is a convicted felon, this person has to register for the rest of their lives," said Weiss.
But while many teachers found to sexually harass students end up losing their license to teach, we found others acting questionably are back in the classroom.
A Palm Beach County high school coach received a written reprimand after school police say he tried kissing one student and years later told other students, "I love you."
Nat Harrington, spokesperson for the Palm Beach County School District says that while the actions were inappropriate, the case was not considered a sex incident. According to Harrington, the coach was reassigned and demoted.
Another high school teacher in Palm Beach County also received a written reprimand after he admitted to having consensual sex with a student. According to the school investigation report, the sexual relationship didn't begin until the student was 19 years old.
The Palm Beach County School District requires all employees, whether teachers or not, to sign a Code of Ethics stating they understand what is appropriate behavior and what is not. Harrington also states the district take every accusation seriously and will prosecute substantiated cases to the fullest extent.
"It's wrong, bad, illegal behavior. People send their kids to a school system to be educated, not to be harassed by adults," said Harrington.
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