Middle School Soccer Coach Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison After Preying on Student

A former middle school teacher and soccer coach from Florida who was arrested in February for having sex with a student pleaded no contest to charges brought against her and will serve 15 years in prison, according to Northwest Florida Daily News. Hayley Morgan Close, who also goes by Hayley Hallmark, will also serve another 15 years of sex offender probation following her incarceration, according to Christine Bosau who is the Assistant State Attorney. 

Close, 35, agreed to the deal earlier this month and will be sentenced on Jan. 18. She was originally charged with lewd and lascivious battery of a child between the ages of 12 and 16, sexual assault on a minor and engaging in lewd conduct with a student while acting in a position of authority. 

In March, new charges of lewd and lascivious battery of a child and sexual assault on a minor were added when it was learned that Close had engaged in a sexual encounter with the victim during a school dance team event. The arrest report states that the relationship between the teacher/coach lasted for about three years from 2017 to 2020. Close was coaching the soccer team and the dance team and Ruckel Middle School in Niceville, Florida. 

According to the arrest report, the relationship grew out of text exchanges. The victim told police that the texting turned into "sexting" after she moved on to high school in August 2018, which is also the same time it became physical. The report also states that "numerous sexual acts" happened at Ruckel Middle School when the victim, then a high school student, was assisting Close with activities. 

"Okaloosa County teachers represent the highest standard of professionalism, ethics, and morality," Superintendent Marcus Chambers said in the statement in February. "When an educator fails to live up to that high standard, we're all impacted. Student safety and well-being is our highest priority, and we expect our employees' conduct to be consistent with that priority."  

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If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.