Fourth grade teacher arrested after police find weapons in her purse

Betty Jo Soto

SEMINOLE — Pinellas County Schools police arrested a fourth-grade teacher at Starkey Elementary May 20 after finding she had brought a handgun and two knives to school.

Betty Jo Soto, 49, of St. Petersburg was booked into the Pinellas County Jail about 1:45 p.m. on two misdemeanor charges of carrying a concealed weapon. Bail was set at $500.

According to the arrest affidavits, Soto had a 6-inch Karambit fighting knife concealed in her pants pocket and a 2-inch finger push knife hidden on the strap of her backpack. Police also found a Glock 9mm handgun loaded with seven rounds of ammunition in her backpack.

Police stated in the affidavit that the gun was exposed when she left the backpack in her fourth-grade classroom, which had students inside.

Lisa Wolf-Chason, Pinellas County Schools Public Information Officer, said although Soto has a concealed weapons permit, she violated the law by taking the weapons on school grounds. Weapons are prohibited at Pinellas County Schools for all personnel except for police or resource officers.

Soto will not be returning to class for the rest of the school year, Wolf said. Her contract for next year will not be renewed.