JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A First Coast High science teacher accused of soliciting a romantic relationship with a student is facing a criminal charge.
Gretchin Thompson, 27, is charged with offenses against students by an authority figure. According to information from the First Coast High principal, the school was alerted earlier this year that Thompson might be engaged in inappropriate communications with a student.
In a statement to First Coast High parents, Principal Justin Fluent said Thompson, a ninth grade science teacher, was reassigned to duties that did not involve student contact and an internal review was opened.
Thompson was arrested Wednesday and booked into the Duval County Jail on the felony charge.
Sources indicated the allegations against her involved electronic communications between Thompson and a male student. His age has not been disclosed.
Fluent emphasized that the district is presuming innocence right now but said Thompson will not return to the classroom while the judicial process plays out and her classes will be staffed with a long-term substitute.
Students, especially those who knew Thompson, said they were shocked when they heard. They initially thought she stopped coming to class because she had contracted COVID-19. Then they learned of her arrest Wednesday.
“It’s mind-blowing. I really thought that she just wanted to teach,” one 18-year-old student said.
“She was bright. She was cheerful, helpful -- very go-to-it. I loved her, She was my favorite teacher. She used to sit down and talk to me and help me with my work, but I’m sad to see her gone,” another student said.
News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said allegations against an authority figure in a school setting are particularly unsettling.
“This is an ultimate betrayal of trust. ... It’s disturbing, simply because parents have the trust in the school system, in the teachers and administrators,” Jefferson said. “The teacher is an authoritative figure in the eyes of the children, the students that they’re teaching. The students look up to them.”
Jefferson said the school did what it was supposed to do in removing Thompson from the classroom as soon as it learned of the allegations and then notifying families at the school when she was arrested Wednesday.
Duval Teachers United, the union representing much of DCPS’s teaching staff, declined to comment on the case.