Teacher's aide developed "crush" on 11-year-old, police say

A teacher's aide at Highlands Grove Elementary School is scheduled to appear before a judge in Bartow on Wednesday because of an inappropriate relationship detectives say she had with one of her former 5th grade students. She is 45 years-old. He is 11.

"She said it went from mentor to a crush to wanting to have a relationship," said Sgt. Gary Gross of the Lakeland Police Department.

In the last three weeks, detectives say Dotson exchanged hundreds of text messages with the boy, who she nicknamed "Lovebug." Many of the texts ended up being sexual in nature.

"When does it go from inappropriate to criminal?" said Gross. "It jumped real quickly when she said let's meet at the mall for some specific sexual acts. Not only that, she made a stop at a store and picked up a product to be used during that encounter."

That encounter never happened because the boy's mother found the texts, called the police and Dotson was arrested.

"If his mother wasn't doing her job as a parent, this child would have been victimized by his teacher," commented Gross.

Dotson has been suspended without pay from the Polk School District. Polk's superintendent is recommending that she be fired.

A spokesman for the school district says Dotson has never been disciplined. Gross adds she has no criminal record.