Teacher sentenced to three years in prison after having relations with 14-year-old student
A former teacher was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday, after confessing to having a sexual relationship with her 14-year-old student.
Stephanie Peterson, 27, must register as a sexual offender for the rest of her life, after admitting to having sex with the eighth-grader in her car twice, as well as performing oral sex on him on multiple occasions.
The former New Smyrna Bead Middle School teacher's lawyers had hoped she would avoid jail, citing her struggle with bipolar, the loss of her teaching career in her defence, as well as claiming the victim was a "willing participant".
However, the judge insisted she pay for her mistakes after an emotional testimony from the 14-year-old's mother, who claimed her son's life had been ruined by Peterson's actions and pleaded for her to be sent to prison for the maximum 10 years.
"He is no longer the funny, vibrant, light-hearted child we knew," she said. "He is now untrustworthy of new people and even old friends. He’s angry most days … He doesn’t understand his new personality but can’t find his old self either. And it’s absolutely heartbreaking. What she did to him has completely changed his life. My child is gone. His innocence was stolen at 14 years old."
Earlier in the case, the former educator had taken the stand to claim she knew her actions were unforgivable.
"I wish I could make it clear how regretful I am for what has occurred," she claimed, reading from a statement. "If I could say one thing to the victim, it would have to be that I’m sorry, two words used too often without much meaning but I can honestly say with everything in my heart that I mean it to its truest definition."
She added that she hoped to atone by doing good and helping others the rest of her life, stating: "It’s all a huge misfortune what has happened. And I hope I’ll be able to make things right by staying on medication and attending regular therapy."
In addition, she spoke out about losing her teaching career, saying it was "the most meaningful thing in my life".
"Knowing I was in a position of power and misused that power to negatively influence one’s life is a morbid thought I have to think about all day every day," she said, this following previous claims that after her arrest, she had attempted to kill herself.
Peterson, who will serve two years of community control after her jail sentence, had initially got to know the victim after lending him her phone to check his Instagram account last November.
She later sent him a message and the pair's messages escalated until the teacher eventually sent the teen nude photos and told him she loved him.
Authorities were alerted to the situation when the victim’s mother discovered their relationship and raised the alarm.
Reportedly, a different teacher had called the boy's home to offer to tutor him, prompting his mother to jokingly ask him if the teacher was going to molest him.
In response, he started crying and blurted out: "Anyone could molest you."