Bill would toughen penalties for predatory teachers - FOX 13 News

Bill would toughen penalties for predatory teachers

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Ethel Anderson, Stephanie Ragusa and of course the infamous Debra Lafave, are all former Hillsborough County teachers who were guilty of having sex with students.

Only Lafave got off easy after claims were made that the blonde bombshell was "too pretty for prison." Her victim also didn't want to testify.

Each case captured major media attention, and that of concerned parents and students.

"Very disheartening to know that students are being preyed upon by someone who is their protector," said Simone Girard, an Armwood High Senior.

So Armwood students like Simone Girard decided to do something about it, drawing up a bill that would create tougher penalties for sexual misconduct committed by teachers. It's an idea that was crafted a few years ago, and now students hope this is the year it makes it through the Florida Legislature.

"We're very passionate about this bill because we see a trend on the research, we found that relationships do occur very often," said Girard.

"It is an opportunity for them to have real world environment with people who create our laws," said Armwood High teacher Tony Pirotta

It's known as House Bill 485, and it would make the penalty one degree tougher than the current law. It would also call for a minimum mandatory sentence of one year in prison, meaning Lafave may not have gotten off with simply house arrest and probation.

"I think it has a great shot of passing," said Rep. Jake Rayburn (R-Valrico). "This idea has been around a couple years, and I think this is the year to get it done."

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