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Bartow middle school teacher fired for inappropriate texts, touching student | News

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Bartow middle school teacher fired for inappropriate texts, touching student

Bartow, FL -- For the second time this month, a teacher in Polk County is being accused of inappropriate behavior with a student.

This time the alleged victim is a fifth grader at Compass Charter Middle School in Bartow, and the teacher is a 27-year-old man.

"I think it's pretty sad, really," said Matt Spina, who has a son in 6th grade.

"It's very disappointing, but it seems to be happening a lot more," added parent Chad Pridgen.

Earlier this month a female teacher in Lakeland was arrested for allegedly having multiple sexual encounters with one of her 17-year-old students.

In January, investigators say the teacher at Compass Middle, Robert Walrath, inappropriately hugged one of his students, touched her on the buttocks, sent her a picture of himself bare-chested, and shared several sexually explicit text messages with her.

The school's principal first suspended Walrath earlier this month. Then investigators shared details, and the vulgar context of the text messages.

"Based upon that knowledge, [they] determined that he needed to be terminated and did so," said Robin Gibson, the school's attorney.

Bartow police were forwarded the complaint from the school's resource officer, who had been contacted by the girl's 19-year-old brother. Investigators have forwarded their findings to the state attorney's office.

In the police report, the student tells detectives Walrath whispered in her ear, "I had a sexual dream about you… you sat on my lap... I took off your shirt. You took off your pants."

Detectives say they also retrieved a vulgar text message exchange.

"At least one of the text messages he sent her was sexually provocative, telling her what she could do with part of his anatomy," said Deputy Chief Dave Wyant.

The text, obtained from the police report, read: "HAHA SIT ON IT N ROTATE."

Walrath, previously a 4th grade teacher at Southwest Elementary in Lakeland, had another classroom issue in 2009. The state sought to have Walrath's teaching license suspended for a tactic he'd used to embarrass one of his students. In a settlement, they issued him a letter of reprimand.

"That's pretty bad," said Spina, "They need to throw the book at him."

That's what Bartow Police intend to do. They've recommended Walrath be charged with a 3rd degree felony. It will be up to prosecutors to make that decision.

Detectives say they do not believe that Walrath engaged in inappropriate activity with any other students.


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