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Welcome to the Polk County Sheriff's Office News Room, where the Public Information Officers (PIO's) post all of the information that they release to the news media. PIO's act as liaisons between news media organizations and the Sheriff's Office. The PIO's routinely release timely and accurate information and Crime Stoppers bulletins, and respond to routine and "breaking news" media inquiries. News releases and Crime Stoppers information can be found on this page.
PCSO's full-time Public Information Officers are Brian Bruchey, Carrie Horstman, and Alicia Manautou. The Public Information Officers can be reached by sending an e-mail collectively at PIOs@polksheriff.org.
The recent news releases sent out by the PIOs can be found here, and archived releases (older than 2017) can be found here.
Detectives from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested a teacher from Lakeland’s Lake Gibson Middle School on Thursday, June 25, 2020, after it was discovered that she had sexual relations with a juvenile.
The teacher, 49-year-old Leslie Bushart of Lakeland, was booked into the Polk County Jail, charged with Lewd Battery (F-2). During her arrest, she told detectives that she has been a teacher for 29 years. Please refer all inquiries regarding her employment to the Polk County School Board.
The investigation began on June 16th after the boy’s parents notified the PCSO. They reported that the incident occurred on June 6th during a graduation party for the victim's older sister.
According to the arrest affidavit, Bushart told another person at that party that she had just performed oral sex on the teenage victim. That person then informed the mother of the victim. The mother confronted Bushart, who then quickly left the party.
Bushart later reached out to the victim’s mother via Facebook Messenger and tried to rationalize her behavior by saying she was drunk at the party.
When detectives met with Bushart, she confessed to the crime. She told them that she and the boy walked away from the crowd together and she attempted to smoke marijuana, but was so drunk that she couldn't get it lit. At that point she began performing oral sex on the victim.
“Leslie Bushart victimized a teenage boy. She betrayed her profession, as well as her friends during what was supposed to be a very special day. There is technically one victim in this case, but the entire family and school community have suffered from this.”