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Hugs, 'girl talk' won't send sex scandal teacher to jail

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Judge finds former teacher in violation of probation in student sex case
  • But judge spares Debra Lafave from jail, warns her "don't come back"
  • Lafave's probation forbids her to have contact with anyone under 18
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(CNN) -- Debra Lafave, the former Florida middle school teacher convicted of having sex with a student, violated her probation by hugging a young co-worker, a Florida judge found Thursday.

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Debra Lafave was arrested after talking with a teenager. She is not allowed to have contact with anyone under 18.

But the judge did not send Lafave to jail, saying the violation was "not willful and substantial."

"Please don't come back," he scolded.

Dressed in a tailored, black pantsuit, Lafave said she had "innocent" physical contact with a female co-worker she knew as under age 18. Video Watch Lafave in the courtroom »

At the time, she and the 17-year-old hostess worked at Danny Boy's, a small restaurant in the Tampa, Florida, area.

Lafave, 27, pleaded guilty in November 2005 to having sex with a 14-year-old boy and was sentenced to three years under house arrest and seven years of probation.

Lafave was required to register as a sex offender and ordered not to have any contact with minors. A tracking device she carries as part of her probation went off in court, prompting the prosecutor to observe, "I think she's accounted for."

Lafave acknowledged she was aware that hugs and other forms of physical contact -- as well as conversations about sex -- with minors violated terms of her probation. She referred to the sexually explicit conversations at work as just "girl talk."

Lafave denied talking about her sex life with co-workers. "I don't speak that way about my personal life," she said. But she added that her co-workers spoke freely about sex in a "small group setting."

While other co-workers socialized outside work, Lafave said, the 17-year-old was not included in those outings.

Asked why she hugged the young co-worker, Lafave explained it was a small restaurant with a casual atmosphere where co-workers felt like family. The contact came, she said, "out of my good nature, that's the way it worked."

The contacts that led to Thursday's probation violation hearing first surfaced during two polygraph tests administered as part of Lafave's court-ordered supervision.

She received a verbal reprimand a year ago, according to testimony. When the behavior continued, her probation officer asked a judge to find her in violation.

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She was ordered to quit the restaurant job and now works as a receptionist in her mother's beauty shop.

In the past, Lafave has said she suffers from bipolar disorder and is receiving treatment. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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