Florida teacher, 50, arrested for giving 7th-grader hit from vape pen, could face 5 years in prison

A Central Florida substitute teacher was arrested Friday and charged with child abuse after an alleged offer to a seventh-grade student left her claiming “I was just trying to fit in.”

(Video: WESH)

The school day was nearly over at Eustis Middle School, northwest of Orlando, Florida, on May 2 when 50-year-old Lake County substitute teacher Jennifer Hale was said to have interjected herself into the conversation of two seventh-grade students. Now she could face as much as five years in prison after it was said she offered and allowed a boy to take a hit off of her vape pen.

According to the affidavit obtained by Inside Lake, during the last period of the day, Hale overheard the students having a conversation about vaping which led her to tell them she had a vape pen. When one student walked up to the desk, she allegedly displayed it and asked if he wanted to “hit it” before cautioning him to be careful of a salt-like substance on it, but the boy was unclear on what that substance was.

“You can’t do this. You just can’t do it. This should be common sense,” Eustis Police Chief Craig Capri told WESH. “She has a responsibility to that classroom to protect kids. Not abuse them.”

Hale was said to have asked the boy not to report her, but another student informed an administrator and she was called into Principal Michael Spencer’s office the following day. After she admitted to the incident, Spencer escorted her off the premises and contacted the school resource officer. Her explanation for her actions had been, “I was just trying to fit in.”

“We contacted her. She immediately, post-Miranda, confessed to doing it,” Capri said. “Her response was she just wanted to fit in. I don’t get it. What is there to fit in? You’re there to teach a class, not fit in?”

Jennifer Hunter, a mother of an eighth grader at Eustis expressed the same as she told WESH, “They don’t need to fit in with the kids at all. They need to be more parent-like than fittin’ in with the kids.”

“Teachers. It’s scary now. I never thought that a substitute teacher would give my child that or someone else’s child any of that stuff,” she went on. “Just other students.”

Hale was arrested Friday at her Mt. Dora, Florida home and charged with one count of child abuse before later being released on a $1,000 bond. When asked about her status with the school district, WESH was informed that she was no longer in their employ. She had begun working for the district in Nov. 2022 and had not had any disciplinary issues to that point.

If convicted, she faces a maximum of five years in prison, five years probation, and $5,000 fine. Her next court appearance is scheduled for May 30.


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