Orange County Schools: Teacher's inappropriate relationship should have been reported

Teacher in Polk County sex case previously investigated while teaching in Orlando

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County Schools told Local 6 it should have reported to state education officials what it was investigating as an inappropriate relationship between former teacher Jennifer Fichter and an eighth-grade student.

Fichter resigned from her position as a language arts teacher at Robinswood Middle School while under investigation in 2008. She was then allowed to teach again in Polk County, where last week she was arrested for allegedly having sex repeatedly with a 17-year-old student.

The Florida Department of Education said school districts are obligated by law to report any legally sufficient allegation of educator misconduct.

In 2008, Fichter was accused by the district of sending text messages of a sexual nature to the eighth-grader.

OCPS originally told Local 6 it didn't believe it needed to report the allegations against Fichter to the Department of Education, but Monday said the allegations were reportable. They said they would report any similar allegations from now on.

According to state law, the school district could face sanctions for not reporting the incident to state education officials. Those sanctions may include responsible employees losing up to a year of pay or even facing termination.

The Department of Education said it's looking into the county's failure to properly report and will take any action if necessary.

On Monday, Polk County Schools Superintendent Kathyrn LeRoy told Local 6 their school district knew nothing about the previous allegations against Fichter when they hired her in 2011. LeRoy said in part that's because Fichter lied on her application and omitted the job in Orange County.

"She falsified her application. It came to light late last week," she said.

LeRoy also told Local 6 Fichter lied when specifically asked about any previous misconduct.

"There's questions on there that say have you ever been terminated and she said no, have you ever been investigated. She said no," said LeRoy.

LeRoy said when Polk County Schools checked the references for the last teaching job Fichter told them about, they checked out. She also said Fichter's criminal background check came back clean.

Meanwhile Fichter is being held on $70,000 bond in Polk County on seven charges of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. She also faces additional charges in Hillsborough County related to sex acts with the same victim in their jurisdiction.

OCPS did report the allegations to the Department of Children and Families and the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

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