Kissing Crime: Assistant Principal Calls Cops after Elementary Students Smooch

November 17, 2011

A Fort Myers principal involved Lee County sheriff’s deputies in an elementary school crush.

Deputies were dispatched Wednesday to Orange River Elementary School in reference to what Assistant Principal Margaret Ann Haring called a “possible sex crime” — two students kissing.

“This incident is more of a simple assault, though by definition there would have to be a victim,” Sgt. Stephanie Eller said.

Haring told deputies she had two students, both under 12, who kissed while in physical education class, reports said. Haring said one of them was debating about who liked who more.

The student then went over and kissed the other. The smooch was witnessed by a teacher, reports said.

Haring first called the Florida Department of Children and Families who told her to contact the Sheriff’s Office. Haring told deputies there is an ongoing involvement with DCF.

Harind said “there were no new allegations of sexual abuse as far as she knew,” reports said. Much of the information in regards to DCF was redacted from reports.

When there is “suspicion to the level of concern, school employees are required to call DCF,” Lee County Public Schools spokesman Joe Donzelli said. “If there is an ongoing investigation no further information can be provided”.

By Florida law, school district employees are required to call DCF if they suspect abuse, Donzelli said. Haring’s reason for calling was not released.

“As a teacher, they obviously felt that this was something they wanted to report and we encourage that,” said Terri Durdaller, spokeswoman for the Sun Coast Region of the DCF.

Durdaller said DCF decides on a case-to-case basis whether the department will handle an incident reported to its 1-800-96ABUSE hotline or whether it will instead be referred to local law enforcement.

“This call came into the hotline and it did not fit our criteria,” Durdaller said.

According to DCF publications, legal criteria for a report through the department is constituted when there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child who is a Florida resident is believed to have been harmed or threatened by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver or other person responsible for the child’s welfare.

Staff writer Kristine Gill contributed to this report.