POINCIANA, Fla. – A Poinciana High School teacher, who also served as the girls’ basketball coach, was arrested Thursday on allegations he had an inappropriate relationship with a student and sent her a photo of himself exposing his genitals.
Wayne McKenzie Ricks, 26, the school’s teacher of the year in 2017, was arrested on charges of battery and transmission of material harmful to minors.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office said it began an investigation Wednesday into allegations of possible child abuse at Poinciana High School after another student anonymously reported it.
That student told the school resource officer that Ricks was possibly involved in a relationship with a 17-year-old student, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Deputies say once they approached the student victim about it, she cooperated and almost seemed relieved.
“She did feel uncomfortable,” said Osceola County Maj. Jacob Ruiz. “She’s a young person so it was difficult, a lot of them are afraid to report anything like this for any person of authority or trust.”
Detectives said the girl told them Ricks bought sneakers, a cellphone and a necklace for the girl. Ricks also kissed the girl and sent her a graphic photo of himself via Snapchat, deputies said.
“This young man, just seems to be starting his career. What a great opportunity to serve our community to be a role model; it’s very despicable,” Ruiz added Friday.
The Osceola School District said Ricks resigned from his position Wednesday.
Ricks started in the district in 2013 as a paraprofessional at Reedy Creek Elementary, school officials said. He moved to Poinciana High in 2014 as a paraprofessional and became a teacher in August 2017.
He taught intensive reading to ninth- and 10th-grade students, and he was the girls’ basketball coach.
“The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office and the Osceola County School Department are committed to the safety of our children,” a news release stated. “We would like to thank the deputies, detectives and school officials that acted quickly, in this case, to ensure that our students are not exposed to any individual(s) who are willing to harm our children.”
The news shocked parents waiting to pick up their children in line Friday afternoon.
“It’s scary,” said mom Trish Avery.
“As a dad, I have three girls, it does creep me out,” said dad Carlton Reid. “I put 100% trust in the teachers so that’s disappointing to know right now.”
Deputies say as they do in most cases, in this one, they are investigating if more victims are out there.