Assistant principal charged for sexting a middle school student

Manatee County, FL - (NBC) - They met online playing "World of Warcraft."

He said he was a middle school student. She said she was a 28-year-old assistant principal.

They never met face-to-face, but investigators said they chatted on the phone and online, exchanging sexual comments.

A month later, authorities said, the woman texted the boy a photo of herself topless.

On Thursday, deputies arrested Lauren Tilo, an assistant principal at Middleton High School, on a felony charge of transmission of harmful material to a minor. She was released six hours later on $10,000 bail.

Tilo is the latest in a string of Tampa Bay area educators - and the second from Middleton High - to be accused of inappropriate conduct with children in recent years.

The 14-year-old boy is from Manatee County and is not a Middleton student, authorities said. Tilo, 30, was arrested at her Tampa home on a Manatee warrant.

The explicit photo was sent March 7. The boy told his guidance counselor about it Wednesday after he became upset with Tilo over something, Manatee sheriff's spokesman Dave Bristow said.

Tilo began teaching English and Advanced Placement literature at Middleton in 2003 and was promoted to assistant principal in September. She has been suspended with pay pending disciplinary proceedings.

She hasn't been disciplined during her employment with the Hillsborough County school district, spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.

"It's our hope that this is a misunderstanding," Cobbe said. "But (for now) we will keep her away from students."

Tilo is a graduate of Kathleen High School in Lakeland. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of South Florida and a master's in educational administration from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

"Ms. Tilo loves interacting with her students and their families, and she takes great pride and joy in watching her 'children' grow and learn throughout their high school careers," Middleton's website states.

Middleton senior Tabitha Williams took Tilo's English class as a freshman. She said Tilo is sweet and caring.

"It's blowing my mind," Williams said of Tilo's arrest. "I just think maybe there's a piece of the story missing or something. I don't know it's true. I don't know what to believe."

The arrest comes about 18 months after former Middleton High special education teacher Christina Lin Butler was sentenced to five years of probation for having sex with a 16-year-old male student.

School board member Doretha Edgecomb, whose district includes Middleton, said she hopes people don't judge the school based on those incidents.

"We want the best teachers," she said. "But we can't always determine that in a background or by what they say."

This is a crucial year at Middleton as administrators work toward changing the perception of the east Tampa school.

Community activist Fred Hearns, who graduated from Middleton in 1966 and serves on its School Advisory Council, was shocked by Tilo's arrest.

"This is hitting me from out of nowhere," said Hearns, who met Tilo about a year ago.

Hearns said Tilo coordinated the council's meetings.

"I'm extremely disappointed," he said. "She really seemed good."

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