This week, a former middle school teacher pleaded guilty to having sexual contact with a 14-year-old student. Stephanie Peterson, a 27-year-old science teacher from Florida, admitted to two felony charges: one count of lewd or lascivious battery sex act with a child, and one count of transmission of harmful material to minors by electronic means.
Peterson was arrested in February of this year when her victim told his parents about their relationship, but her case has only just gone to court.
According to the teenager's account, Peterson would come and pick him up from his home at around 11pm before spending hours with him at her home while her husband - a firefighter - was out at work. During these meetings, the pair would engage in sexual intercourse. The unnamed student also said that the teacher had provided him with marijuana on one occasion, too.
Their relationship, which lasted between November 2017 to January 2018, was disclosed to police by the boy's mother. When Peterson found out that the teen had told his parents about what had been going on, she was said to be outraged. Evidence of this was shown in court at her hearing.
"So she's planning on doing something with it," Peterson messaged the student via Snapchat. "I hate you. So much."
She then asked the young student to tell his mother that their relationship was the "worst decision of [her] life."
"I know it was and idk where my brain was but I somehow fell in love with you briefly and idk why," she said. "I'll never be the same person because of it."
Originally, the former teacher intended to plea no contest, but the judge said he would not accept this for a case in which a sexual offence was committed.
"The component of any sentence is treatment, and a component of treatment is admitting that you did what you did," the judge said. "If you plead no contest here, they go to treatment and they don't want to admit anything."
Peterson conferred with her attorney for a moment upon hearing this, before quickly agreeing to enter a guilty plea for both charges.
As she submitted a plea instead of taking the case to trial, Peterson had the felony charge of lewd or lascivious battery sex act with a child dropped; however, she will still be required to register as a sex offender as a result of her actions.
Though she has not yet been sentenced for her crimes, it is believed that Peterson will face a minimum of five years and a maximum of 10 years in prison. Despite this, her defence team are planning to ask the judge for a "downward departure" from the minimum sentence, meaning that the 27-year-old could end up serving fewer than five years.
Regardless of her punishment, it is clear that Peterson will never work in a school again.