In the past two weeks, three female teachers have been arrested in the Tampa, Fla., area, accused of having sex with male students.
First came the arrest of a middle school math teacher, Stephanie Ragusa, 28. She was charged with having sex with a 14-year-old, authorities said.
Investigators monitored phone calls between teacher and student in which Ragusa allegedly acknowledged having sex with the boy.
Last Thursday, high school honors English teacher Mary Jo Spack, 45, also was arrested. She is accused of meeting a 17- and an 18-year-old student at a liquor store and leading them to a motel room, where more students allegedly joined the party.
Spack was reportedly overheard having sex with one teen in the shower, police said.
“I just can’t believe it’s happening,” said one unidentified Tampa-area parent. “I don’t know what to think, or what’s going through their heads.”
And on Monday night, substitute teacher Lisa Marinelli, 40, a married mother of two, was arrested by sheriff’s deputies and charged with unlawful sex with a minor. The 17-year-old victim told detectives he had sex with Marinelli 10 times. Authorities said they believe the boy.
“There’s phone records, the text messages, the underwear, their statements,” said Pasco County sheriff’s detective Michelle March.
The arrests stirred memories of another notorious Tampa teacher, Debra Lafave. In June 2004, the middle school teacher was arrested for having sex with a 14-year-old male student in her car, her condo and her classroom.
The combination of Lafave’s pinup girl looks and the young age of her victim made the story an instant national sensation.
Therapist Karen Duncan specializes in treating sexually abused women and children. She believes it’s not that female teachers are abusing their students more frequently, but rather we are more aware of it when the crime happens.
“That the cultural belief, you know, that boys can’t be victims, therefore females can’t be offenders, has been starting to be challenged (more) now than it was 30 years ago,” she said.