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Polk School District Considers Hiring-Policy Changes After Scrutiny of Teacher Charged with Sexual Battery

He said that someone convicted or found guilty of, has had adjudication withheld for, or has pleaded guilty or nolo contendere to any of the felony offenses listed in FS 1012.315 would not be hired at an off-campus site, like bus maintenance or the supply warehouse, even if they would not have contact with children.

“The same disqualifying criteria is utilized for all potential PCPS employees,” Kennedy said.

The changes come 18 months after Ricks’ arrest and following media reports, including a story in The Ledger, that Ricks was rehired in Florida as a teacher because the Florida Department of Education failed to flag his personnel file after his 2018 arrest in Poinciana. In addition, Polk County Public Schools appears to have conducted a flawed background check when HCHS hired him in 2020.

In January 2018, Ricks, now 30, was charged with battery on a minor for touching and kissing a 17-year-old Poinciana High student and sending her a picture of his penis via Snapchat. That phone app deletes messages after a short period of time and the girl did not take a screenshot of his message from her. He was found not guilty of those charges in May 2019.

From there, he went to work in August 2019 at a Winter Haven charter school and passed a PCPS criminal background check. In August 2020, I got a job at Haines City High. An investigative report with the state shows HCHS principal called a friend he knew at Poinciana High School to ask about Ricks instead of calling Osceola County Public Schools human resources department. The friend knew nothing about Ricks’ arrest. However, a Google search would have turned up the Poinciana arrest in news reports.

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