HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Hillsborough County high school teacher was arrested Wednesday after deputies say he solicited nude photos from minors online.
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, 37-year-old Anthony Michael Peace works as a history teacher and is a former wrestling coach at Strawberry Crest High School in Dover.
On March 29, deputies say an undercover detective portraying a 14-year-old boy on social media came in contact with Peace after the teacher initiated a conversation.
Through an undercover investigation targeting residents looking to have sex with minors, Peace solicited nude photos from the teenager and sent explicit videos of himself, according to a release from HCSO.
The sheriff’s office says detectives gained access to “sufficient evidence” to charge Peace with five counts of transmission of harmful material to a minor, one count of unlawful use of a two-way communications device, and one count of use of computer services or devices to solicit certain illegal acts.
“It is the ultimate betrayal of trust when mentors and leaders within our community take advantage of their position of authority over young victims,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “Parents should not have to worry about teachers preying on their children. We will not stop conducting these types of undercover operations until it is clear to everyone that predatory behavior will not be tolerated in Hillsborough County, especially within our schools.”
Hillsborough County Public Schools released the following statement on Peace’s arrest:
“Our district is shocked and disgusted by these allegations. Mr. Peace will not be returning to his position and we will move swiftly for termination. The school has counselors on hand to ensure students have a trusted adult to talk to in light of this news. The safety of our students is our top priority.”Hillsborough County Public Schools
HCPS says Peace has been with the district since 2006.
8 On Your Side has learned from Peace’s personnel file that he lost his wrestling coach job at the Strawberry Crest High School after he was the subject of a sheriff’s office investigation in 2012.
Deputies and the Child Protective Investigative Department looked into an allegation that he interacted inappropriately with a victim who was not a Hillsborough School student.
“Our agency investigated and it was unfounded at that point,” HCSO spokesperson Amanda Granit said. “However, he was removed as being the coach but not removed from the school.”
Hillsborough School district officials learned that Peace told investigators he “regularly would bring students to his home to spend the night,” according to a memo sent to the former superintendent on May 23, 2012.
“Though there was no finding of your inappropriately interacting with your students/athletes, you are directed to never take students home with you or be alone with them for any reason at any time in or out of the school setting,” General Manager of Professional Standards Linda Kipley wrote in a letter to Peace dated July 9, 2012.
The letter states that behavior violated a Florida High School Athletic Association Policy and the district disciplined him with a lifetime coaching ban at Hillsborough Schools.
Detectives are now working to determine if other minors or students may have been victimized by Peace.
If you have any information regarding this case, please call HCSO at 813-247-8200.