A former teacher will face up to 15 years in prison after she pleaded no contest to the charges brought against her following her arrest for having sex with a student.
In February, 35-year-old Hayley Morgan Close, who also goes by Hayley Hallmark, was arrested after having a sexual relationship with a female student where she would often engage in sexual activity with the girl on school premises.
Close was a teacher and soccer coach at Ruckel Middle School in Florida.
In a news release from the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office, Close was accused of having a relationship with the student between August 2018 and August 2020.
However, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported the arrest report stated Close began the relationship with the student in 2017 and it lasted until 2020.
At the start of the relationship, the student was 15 years old and the investigation into the relationship started when the victim confided in a high school teacher.
According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, Close was originally charged with lewd and lascivious battery of a child between the ages of 12 and 16, sexual assault of a minor and engaging in lewd conduct with a student while acting in a position of authority.
More charges were laid against Close after another incident of sexual assault came to light.
At the time, Close was reportedly the teenage girl's soccer coach and their relationship started when the two exchanged text messages, though they became more explicit when the teen moved on to high school.
Close pleaded no contest to the charges and in addition to the 15 years she will serve in prison, she will be on probation for 15 years after her release.
The former teacher will be formally sentenced in January next year, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported.
Following Close's arrest in February, the Okaloosa County School District released a statement which was released by the sheriff's department saying she had been placed on administrative leave after the allegations against her were revealed.
"Okaloosa County teachers represent the highest standard of professionalism, ethics, and morality," Superintendent Marcus Chambers said in the statement.
“When an educator fails to live up to that high standard, we’re all impacted. Student safety and well-being is our highest priority, and we expect our employees’ conduct to be consistent with that priority.”
If you or somebody you know is experiencing sexual abuse or family violence contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732, the Sexual Assault Support Services on 6231 1811 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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