News Release: Office of the State Attorney Third Judicial Circuit of Florida
June 27, 2014
The State Attorney's Office for the Third Judicial Circuit reviewed the evidence concerning sexual relations between Christine Bennett, a former teacher at Taylor County High School, and three of her male students. At the time of the sexual activity, all three students were 16 years old or older and Christine Bennett was 23 years old. Florida Statute 794.05 states it is unlawful for a person 24 years of age or older to have sexual activity with a minor 16 or 17 years or age. It is not unlawful for a 23 year old person to have sexual relations with a 16 or 17 year old minor.
Christine Bennett was arrested based on probable cause that she violated Florida Statute 794.011, Sexual Battery by a Person in Custodial Authority. However, after a detailed investigation, there is no evidence that the sexual activity occurred while Christine Bennett had custodial authority over the students. Teachers do not have custodial authority over their students at all times. It is only during school hours, on school grounds or during an extracurricular activity that a teacher has custodial authority over a student. Therefore, evidence is required that proves the sexual activity occurred during school hours, on school property or at an extracurricular activity. None of the sexual activity of Christine Bennett and her students occurred during school hours, on school grounds or during an extracurricular activity.
The laws as set out by the legislature and the courts have made it impossible for the State Attorney's Office to file felony charges against Christine Bennett.
The State Attorney's Office will file criminal charges against Christine Bennett for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Child based on evidence she provided alcoholic beverages to two of her students.
Update by: James Buechele
March 28, 2014 5:35 p.m.
Taylor County School superintendent Paul Dyal says he will recommend to the school board that Christine Bennett be fired at the next school board meeting on Tuesday, April 1.
Dyal spoke with Bennett and informed her that she would be suspended with pay. Today, Dyal told us about his decision to recommend she be fired.
"[Our conversation] was very, very business like," said Dyal. I just met with her to tell her that based upon the investigation she had violated board policy 7.29 which is our code of ethics."
Updated By: James Buechele
March 27, 2014, 8:30pm
School officials say Christine Bennett has been suspended with pay.
The school board will determine her employment at the board meeting on Tuesday, April 1, 2014.
News Release: Perry Police Department
PERRY, Fla. - The Perry Police Department arrested Christine Bennett, 24, of Perry, Fla., for one count of sexual battery following allegations that she had illegal sexual conduct with a student. Bennett is a teacher at Taylor County High School.
The Perry Police Department began its investigation yesterday after law enforcement officials received an anonymous tip. The investigation shows Bennett had an inappropriate relationship with a male student. An arrest warrant was obtained and Bennett turned herself in.
She was booked into the Taylor County Jail on a $30,000 bond. The investigation will be prosecuted by the Office of the State Attorney, 3rd Judicial Circuit.
The investigation is ongoing. If you have information that might help investigators, please contact the Perry Police Department at 850-584-5121.