Poinciana teacher charged with child neglect

- A Polk County teacher has been accused of child neglect after a four-year-old boy was found wandering a street alone, deputies say.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested 26-year-old Marsha Dolce, who teaches the 4th grade in Laurel Elementary School in Poinciana. Deputies say they responded to the apartment complex she lives in on Village Way in Davenport before 7 a.m. after the child was found crying outside, asking for help and wearing a t-shirt and underwear. 

She returned home about an hour later, and told deputies she left the home to help a friend whose car broke down, according to a media release. When they searched her home, they found marijuana in a grinding device sitting on the kitchen counter. They said when they searched her phone, they found she received a text message after 2:30 a.m. giving an address in the Jan Phyl Village area of Winter Haven. A text from Dolce's phone at 3:21 a.m. read, “I’m here.”

When deputies confronted her about the text messages, she admitted she lied about her original story, according to the media release. She said since the child was sleeping, she decided she could go to Winter Haven to meet her friend named, “Dre,” to get marijuana, deputies said.

Dolce and “Dre” returned to her home, had sex and then drove him back to Winter Haven, deputies added. 

"This is not what we expect from a person in a position of public trust. She left her four-year-old home alone to go find some marijuana,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd in a statement. “To think about this poor scared child crying in the street not knowing where mom was-it is just a shame and should not have happened." 

Dolce was arrested on a child abuse charge and possession of drugs. The Florida Department of Children and Families were contacted, and the child was removed from the home. 

Deputies said she had no prior criminal history.

The Polk County School District said Dolce has been an employee since January and has not had any disciplinary action since. They said they plan to "terminate" her employment. 

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