SARASOTA, Fla. (November 18, 2019) — A male teacher who taught both middle school and high school, as well as coached interscholastic sports, faces two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation after two young teenage girls complained about inappropriate touching at school. The teacher, who is 34-years-of-age from Bradenton, is on unpaid leave from the Brookside Middle School in Sarasota. He also taught school in Manatee County. Police are looking into if he could have more victims of lewd and lascivious conduct who have not come forward to this point. The investigation is still active, and, according to a police spokesperson from the Sarasota Police Department, investigators might have only scratched the surface of the man’s history, according to the Bradenton Herald.

The 13-year-old girl whom the teacher allegedly victimized told investigators during a forensic interview that the teacher commented about tightening her bra strap as she was in the teacher’s business class. A day or two later, the teacher saw that the girl’s bra was showing from under her sweater. The teacher put his thumb inside of her bra and moved the sweater upwards to cover the girl’s bra. The victim said the teacher left his hand in the bra and stared into her eyes for about five seconds before she told him to stop. He then allegedly replied, “it’s ok.”

Investigators also learned that another female student, then fourteen at the time, made a complaint about the teacher to the school after he massaged her shoulders in class. She screamed at him to stop when he approached her breasts. He complied, but after school, the then fourteen-year-old girl’s mother complained to school officials. Nothing happened after the complaint, and the girl remained in the teacher’s class. Police have looked for a paper trail of that complaint, but they cannot seem to find any. Teachers are mandatory reporters of child abuse under Florida law.

Lewd and Lascivious Molestation Charges in Florida

Lewd and lascivious molestation is a crime that punishes behavior that falls short of lewd and lascivious battery. The crime involves inappropriate touching of the breasts, buttocks, or genitalia of a child under sixteen years old in a lewd or lascivious way. The crime may also be committed by enticing a child under sixteen years of age to touch an adult’s breasts, buttocks, or genitalia under Florida Statutes §800.04(5).

The phrase lewd and lascivious is a legal term with a specific meaning. The phrase is redundant because both words mean the same thing. The phrase “Lewd and lascivious” means unchaste, lustful, licentious, or wicked, from the perspective of the person committing the act.

In Florida, lewd and lascivious molestation is a strict liability crime with respect to the age of the victim. In other words, claiming ignorance of the person’s age is not a defense. Similarly, there is no issue of consent because a person under sixteen in Florida cannot consent to sexual contact, irrespective of whether the person communicated words or actions that would indicate a willingness to participate on behalf of the child.

The potential penalties for lewd and lascivious molestation vary depending on the age of the victim. If the victim is twelve-years-old or younger and the accused is eighteen or older, then the judge must impose a minimum-mandatory 25-year committed sentence. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment. Otherwise, the crime, if committed by an adult, is a second-degree felony and punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.