TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says a Christian school teacher who mentored students was arrested in Lakeland after being accused of lewd acts with two of them.
Derek Stribling was arrested at his home Thursday after authorities received reports of inappropriate sexual misconduct that occurred while he was working as a teacher at Crossroad Christian School.
Judd said Stribling worked as a history teacher, dean of students, a basketball coach and a “life management coach” at the school. He played basketball at the University of Tennessee and Tennessee Tech, according to Judd.
Judd said an 18-year-old student claims Stribling asked for her phone number to check on her after she had an argument with her father and feared going to school. During their conversation, he informed her she had a “D” in his class, and offered her extra credit.
Once she gave him her number, Judd said Stribling started chatting with her on FaceTime and sending her suggestive text messages.
“And they started talking about sex. And it was filthy talk, nasty talk,” Judd said. “And as a result, he began to do all kinds of nasty things, and sent it to her through social media.”
On one occasion, during a video call, he allegedly exposed himself to the student and committed a lewd act. Another time, he asked her to meet him in a parking lot and perform a sex act, but she refused “because he is married,” Judd said.
“We [later] learned that her ‘D’ ended up an ‘A’,” Judd said, referring to the extra credit. “Isn’t that amazing?”
Another student accused Stribling of sexual misconduct that happened while he was coaching basketball at the school in 2020.
Stribling allegedly had the teen meet him in the school gym’s equipment closet, and started kissing her and touching her inappropriately. He began communicating with her via Snapchat and texts, and called her twice on FaceTime and exposed himself, the student said.
The other student also claimed he asked her to perform a sex act, but she refused.
“Both victims provided details of Stribling’s anatomy,” the sheriff’s office said in a press release.
Judd said the principal notified the sheriff’s office after the allegations surfaced, and Stribling was suspended from the school.
“For a 39-year old married deviant to do this to two teens is horrible as it is, but when you add in that he’s a teacher doing this to his students—it infuriates me,” said Judd. “Most teachers do everything they can to protect their students, but this guy was the complete opposite. He preyed on them for his own sick desires, and he should never be allowed to be near children again.”
Stribling was charged with lewd and lascivious molestation of a minor, lewd and lascivious conduct, offenses against students by an authority figure and transmit material harmful to a minor. He remains behind bars.
“We really, really fear there are other victims out there,” Judd said.
“We talked to parents who thought he was a great guy, was glad he was in the position of being their teacher because he was so nice,” the sheriff added. “He very well likely has befriended you the whole time he could be sexually battering your child. We need to know.”