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Deputies: Oakleaf High School teacher had sex with teen at ballfields

History teacher charged with unlawful sexual activity with underage girl

ORANGE PARK, Fla. – An Oakleaf High School history teacher had sex with a teenage girl in her car at baseball fields near the school grounds, according to a Clay County Sheriff's Office report.

Francesco Franzese, 25, has been charged with unlawful sexual activity with a minor.

According to a district spokeswoman, Franzese has been suspended pending the outcome of the Clay County Sheriff's Office investigation.

“We are saddened to address this allegation of inappropriate behavior involving a teacher and a minor,” Superintendent Addison Davis said in a prepared statement. “As superintendent, this type of behavior is not and will not be tolerated. I want to reassure all parents and guardians that at the end of a thorough investigation, if founded, appropriate action will be taken against the employee. It is imperative that every member in the community knows we take this type of allegation seriously and will continue to ensure that the safety of our students is our greatest priority.”

Franzese, who lives in Hilliard, was arrested Tuesday.

According to the arrest report, the father of the girl, who is a student at Oakleaf High, saw text messages between Franzese and his daughter that he thought were inappropriate and reported it to the sheriff's office.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said her father did the right thing by paying attention to her text messages and telling deputies. 

“Even though the child may delete any text messages, they can request a transcript from the school phone provider, not only who has been texting them but a transcript of the messages,” Smith said.

After going with her father to the police station, the girl agreed to speak with investigators and admitted she had been in a relationship with Franzese over the summer and that they had sex "a handful of times," the arrest report said.

The girl told investigators that she and Franzese mostly had sex in her car at the baseball fields, and the address listed for those fields, according to the arrest report, matched the address of Oakleaf High School. But a district spokeswoman said the incident occurred at the nearby baseball fields, across from the Oakleaf campus, which are not owned by the district.

Deputies later confirmed the correct location was at Oakleaf Community Park across from the school. The park is under the county's parks and recreation department.

The girl said she also had sex with Franzese at his brother's house in Jacksonville.

She said the relationship went on during June and July and that Franzese "broke up with her (earlier this month) because her sister found out about them."

Franzese has no previous criminal history in Clay County, deputies said. He posted $50,003 and will be back in court Sept. 13.

Investigators picked Franzese up Tuesday at his portable classroom at Oakleaf High School and took him to the Orange Park substation where he was interviewed and then arrested, according to the report.

The Clay County district spokeswoman said Franzese was hired in 2016 after an extensive background check required for all employees. 

Before hiring anyone, the district fingerprints all candidates, who are screened through the National FBI database, the FDLE database, and the FDLE’s Sexual Offender and Predator Registry. 

Instructional employees are also screened through the Department of Education database for any past discipline by Professional Practices Services. 

News4Jax tried to go to Franzese's home in Hilliard but the gates were locked and no one could be seen. His family did not return phone calls requesting comment.

Classes at Oakleaf High School resume next week.

Smith said in Duval and Clay counties, parents can monitor how teachers communicate with their children through an online program called Focus. It's typically used for checking the child's progress in class, but parents can monitor it to make sure all contact is appropriate.

 

Editor's note: Because the address for the baseball fields given in the arrest report was the same address as the school, News4Jax initially reported the sex occurred on school grounds.


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