A Clay County fifth-grade teacher arrested after staff at her school say they found cocaine in her purse made her first appearance before a judge Thursday morning.
According to the Clay County Sheriff's Office, 23-year-old Ashlea Eucker teaches at Plantation Oaks Elementary School in the Oakleaf area. She was meeting with school administrators in her classroom when the cocaine was discovered, officials said.
Eucker was charged with possession of a controlled substance, a felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor. At a first appearance hearing Thursday, she was ordered held on $2,500 bond on the drug charge and $252 on the paraphernalia charge.
Eucker, who has been with the school system for about one year, told the judge she has lived in Orange Park all her life. She said her parents are getting her a lawyer.
Eucker has been suspended with pay.
CCSO said Eucker has no prior criminal record in Clay County.
"This is more of a random case because the school had no knowledge of it," said Channel 4 crime and safety analyst Ken Jefferson. "I'm certain if they had knowledge the person was in possession of it or has an addiction to this drug, that person would not have been at the school. I'm pretty sure the school would have taken immediate action upon knowing about that."
According to the arrest report, Eucker was speaking with the school's principal, assistant principal and counselor Wednesday afternoon when the counselor offered to retrieve Eucker's purse from her classroom so she could go home for the rest of the day because she was visibly upset.
The report says Eucker agreed to allow the counselor retrieve her purse. Meanwhile, she called into her classroom and spoke with the person substituting for her.
Eucker provided instructions to the substitute teacher on how to open her desk drawer so the counselor could retrieve her purse, according to the report. Eucker also requested that the substitute zip her purse shut, the report stated.
When the counselor retrieved Eucker's purse, she attempted to zip it closed, but it would not zip properly, the Clay County Sheriff's Office said. The counselor then saw in plain view a small baggie containing a white powder and a straw cut to a length of a few inches sticking out of a side pocket, according to the arrest report.
The counselor believed the substance to be cocaine and notified the principal and assistant principal. They secured the purse inside a cabinet until law enforcement arrived.
The principal told investigators Eucker was visibly nervous while waiting on her purse to be retrieved, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Eucker completed a sworn written statement and a written consent to search her purse.
A Clay County sergeant reported he found a small baggie containing less than a gram of cocaine and the straw.
School officials say Eucker had been working at the school for about a year and before that worked at another elementary school as a substitute teacher. They say she is well-liked on campus and had never had any issues.
"They talked very highly of Ms. Eucker said she has been a great teacher all year long and is just a superb math teacher, and they have had no issues with her," Clay County School District spokeswoman Darlene Mahla said.
Officials said no students were exposed to the drugs, but that hasn't stopped parents here from being concerned.
"That is crazy. That is absolutely the craziest thing," one parent said.
"Personal business is personal business. It should stay at home. Don't bring it to the school," another added.
"I think she should be fired," another parent said.
"We look at teachers as supporters of our children, and they're educators, so I kind of hold them in high regard because they should be setting an example," parent Raquel Tirado said.
Eucker declined to comment by phone Thursday.
"We wish her all the best, but at the same time we have a no drug policy on our school grounds, and that doesn't just go for students, that goes for all employees as well," Mahla said.
The state of Florida does not require teachers to take drug tests. However, support staff such as administration, cafeteria workers and bus drivers do have to take those tests before they are hired.
Eucker graduated in 2011 from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and mathematics education.