A teacher was “grooming” a 16-year-old student for a sexual relationship, letting her skip class, using a vape pen to get high and asking her to be his teenage bride, the Broward Sheriff’s Office said.
John Michael Teti, 41, who worked at Northeast High School in Oakland Park, was arrested Thursday on the charge of soliciting a romantic, lewd and sexual relationship with the girl.
Teti no longer works for the school district. On the day of his arrest, the district’s Special Investigate Unit “delivered a letter of termination to this individual, who had been reassigned away from the school since early January 2019,” said Nadine Drew, a district spokeswoman.
Grooming is a “common practice among pedophiles” who start relationships with children with “actions of favoritism to build trust,” authorities said.
Investigators said Teti was grooming the girl from October to December, including by using a vape pen to get high while the two of them were alone in the classroom, sending frequent text messages and allowing her to skip class by hanging out in his classroom. Authorities said he also offered to pick her up at her house and take her to McDonald’s before school, offered to let her use his private Vudu account and volunteered to go to her house for tutoring, while using emojis in the message to show he meant sex.
In one message, Teti asked the teen, “If my wife were to suddenly die, would you be my teenage bride?” the arrest report said. He sent her another text that said: “What’s it called when you have the munchies, but for a person?”
Even after the girl twice asked Teti to stop his pursuit and termed his actions “creepy,” he continued communicating with her, investigators said.
His behavior escalated from communication to physical contact, including an unsolicited hug in front of other students, and finally, a package delivery to her home of food and snacks, the Sheriff’s Office said. This upset the teen, who had never told him her address and “caused the victim to panic,” it said. Her siblings decided to tell their parents after Christmas, and the girl’s father alerted authorities.
After his arrest, Teti told detectives he had a “special relationship” with the girl and admitted sending the messages early in the morning “when he was lonely,” the arrest report said.
During a court appearance Friday, Broward Judge Jackie Powell set Teti’s bond at $50,000, ordered that he wear a GPS-tracking device and told him not to have contact with the girl or any other minor when he bonds out of jail.
Teti had drawn scrutiny before. Records show that in October he was reprimanded for “inappropriate communication with students” while using a phone app called “Remind Me” — a typical tool for parents, teachers and students to stay connected.
But school administration wrote him up “in regards to maintaining a professional and ethical distance with his students.”
So to circumvent administration “monitoring and suspicion” of the app, he exchanged personal cellphone numbers with “several of his students” instead, according to the report.