DAVENPORT — Saying the behavior of a Davenport teacher “absolutely disgusts us,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd strongly condemned a man accused of having an inappropriate “sexting” relationship with a 16-year-old girl that he had been teaching.
On Thursday, Polk County Sheriff’s Special Victims detectives arrested 36-year-old Dale Pennington of Haines City, and charged him with inappropriate behavior with one of his students.
He now faces 16 counts of transmission of material harmful to a minor, 15 counts of use of a computer to seduce a child, 15 counts of unlawful use of a two-way communication device, and one count of traveling to meet a minor.
“This type of behavior absolutely disgusts us,” Judd said. “When we hear these type of allegations against anyone who is placed in a position of trust and authority, we immediately investigate to determine whether or not the allegations are true. In this case, Dale Pennington abused his position of trust in an attempt to seduce a 16-year-old child, and now he is in jail where he belongs.”
Although Pennington has already been charged, Polk detectives are continuing their investigation to determine whether or not he committed any other crimes against other minors.
Detectives also seized his computers and phones, and “further charges are pending based upon a forensic examination of these electronic devices,” noted Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
The investigation started after a confidential source called the sheriff’s office to report they had found an email and text conversations between Pennington and a 16-year-old girl he had taught during the 2011-2012 school year at Ridge Community High School in Davenport.
Detectives interviewed Pennington, and say the teacher confessed that since this past May, at the end of the last school year, he began emailing and texting one of his 16-year-old World History students.
The girl is not one of Pennington’s students this school year.
“However, the email and text conversations have been ongoing for the past five months,” Eleazer noted. “The conversations were extremely graphic in nature.”
Pennington, she added, also sent the girl a link to an adult pornographic video.
Detectives who investigated the case described the text messages that Pennington sent the girl as “obscene” in the arrest affidavit, and wrote that the two would send text messages back and forth discussing sexual intercourse and oral sex.
The girl even got one text message from Pennington in which he wrote, “I am really a sick individual,” detectives noted in the report.
Later, the teacher and former student discussed having sex in his hot tub, and Pennington stated “Of course the wife won’t approve which makes it even hotter,” the arrest report notes.
Pennington was booked into the Polk County Jail and will have a first appearance court hearing on Friday, Sept. 7.
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