Police: Teacher had sex with a student

She teaches mentally disabled teens in Tampa.

By ABBIE VANSICKLE and CASEY CORA, Times Staff Writers
Published October 25, 2007

TAMPA -- As a special education teacher, Christina Lin Butler taught mentally disabled high school students.

The 33-year-old Middleton High educator violated her position of authority by having sex with one of her students, a 16-year-old, police say.

Butler of 3507 N Tampa St. faces felony charges of engaging in lewd or lascivious behavior, jail records show. She was released from the Orient Road Jail early Wednesday morning on $7,500 bail.

Police say she and the teenager had sex up to a dozen times, including a Monday meeting at Butler's home.

Butler, who did not return a call for comment, has been suspended with pay, according to Hillsborough school spokeswoman Linda Cobbe.

The teacher has no criminal record in Florida, records show.

She joined Middleton's faculty at the start of this school year and taught students considered "educable," meaning they are the least affected of those classified as mentally disabled. The students have a degree of mental retardation and may exhibit judgment problems, Cobbe said.

Prior to that, Butler taught as a substitute at Coleman Middle School and Bryant Elementary School during the 2006-07 school year, Cobbe said.

Police say they learned of the sexual relationship in an unusual way.

Plainclothes police officers spotted six teens speeding away on bicycles Tuesday while conducting surveillance at the Meridian Apartments at 2450 Hillsborough Ave. The teens wore green and white Halloween skeleton gloves in the sticky 80-degree weather. The teens then got into a blue Jeep Grand Cherokee.

After the Jeep twice crossed the double-yellow center line, police pulled it over, Davis said.

Butler owned the vehicle, Davis said. The teenager driving had no license. He told police that his friend, Butler, let him use her car.

Butler was called to come and pick up the Jeep. While police waited for her, officers talked with one of the other teens, who told them the driver was in a relationship with the teacher.

The officers suspected a sexual relationship, and they questioned Butler. At first, she said the relationship was platonic, but then she changed her story, telling police the two had sex, Davis said.

Before Butler started her teaching career, she worked at Brandon Lakes Animal Hospital, according to Cobbe. Workers there declined to comment, but one of Butler's job references remembered her work with animals.

Diane Simpkinson, an elementary school teacher, met Butler through the animal clinic. She never observed Butler's teaching, but Simpkinson said she was impressed with Butler's personality. Butler cared for Simpkinson's home and a litter of puppies when she was out of town.

"I had total trust in her," Simpkinson said. She said Butler seemed responsible, like a "very positive person."

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.