Two Highlands County administrators on leave in wake of middle school sex scandal

Stacy Lynn Hooks, Highlands County Sheriff's Office photo

HIGHLANDS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The Highlands County School District has been rocked by a middle school sex scandal. Now, two school administrators have been placed on leave as detectives dive deeper into the case.

The sheriff told 8 On Your Side she believes more could’ve been done to stop this.

Stacy Hooks, 38, is a former science teacher at Hill-Gustat Middle School. Hooks faces numerous felonies for allegedly having a sex with a 13-year-old boy.

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Rodney Hollinger and Hill-Gustat Principal Dr. Ruth Heckman have been placed on administrative leave in connection with the case.

News Channel 8 had an interview lined up with a school board spokesperson. But minutes later, the superintendent contacted the spokesperson and told her to cancel the interview since it’s still an active investigation.

We received a statement, instead. It says, in part:

“The District is anticipating that [DCF and] the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office will be completing their investigations this week.”

“It’s our obligation to try to identify where did the system fail this child,” Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton said.

Sheriff Benton said teachers and students were aware of the crimes, but nobody bothered to call the sheriff’s office.

RELATED – Highlands County sheriff: Report child abuse or face criminal consequences

“We would be remiss if we did not thoroughly try to find where was the breakdown in this system,” the sheriff said. “Because as soon as this occurred we kept hearing, ‘Well we knew that.’ ‘Oh, that’s been going on for months.’ Those were the comments we were constantly getting from other students, from other parents, from other teachers.”

Sheriff Benton is determined to find out who was aware of the crimes. “How did it work its way up so far, all the way to the county office with no one ever realizing that this should have been reported to law enforcement?” she questioned.

READ MORE – Another Highlands County teacher under investigation for alleged relationship with student

“It bothers me a great deal … However involved the child was, he’s still a child. Thirteen years old with a 30 some plus adult luring him into this sexual activity.”

Detectives still need to interview more administrators, Benton said. Criminal charges could possibly be filed.

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