Are tougher penalties needed for school employees who have sexual relationships with students?

Aug 13, 2013 by

Ohio legislators are considering a bill that would expand the prohibition of school employees having sexual activity with students. The current law only applies to teachers and administrative staff. The legislation was prompted by a Stark County case where a cafeteria worker engaged in sexual activity with students.

The cafeteria worker was charged with sending nude photos to the students, but could not be prosecuted for the sexual conduct under the current law because the age of consent in Ohio is 16-years-old. The cafeteria worker was sentenced to 22 months in prison and granted early release this year.

If the law is expanded to included all school employees, should tougher penalties be imposed on school employees who have sexual relationships with students? Take our poll and tell us in the comments what you think should be the penalty for school employees who cross the line.Here’s a look at a few local and state cases of improper teacher student relationships from the past decade and the sentences imposed by the courts:

In October of 2010, Stacy Schuler, a gym teacher at Mason High School in Mason, Ohio had sex with five 17-year-old students at her home. Shuler tried to plead insanity accusing the teens of taking advantage of her. She was found guilty of 16 counts of sexual battery and three counts of providing alcohol to a minor. The Springboro News-Sun reported an account of what took place between Schuler and the students:

Schuler gave five former students alcohol and had sex with them in her Springboro home in the fall of 2010, according to testimonies given during the trial. The five young men gave graphic, detailed, accounts of the exploits at Schuler’s home. One said sex with Schuler was initiated on a kitchen counter and two others talked about sex they had with Schuler in her shower, several said they had repeated group sex in her bed.

Schuler was sentenced to four years in prison in October 2011.

Sonya Horn, a former intervention specialist at Johnstown High School in Johnstown, Ohio had a four-month relationship with a 18-year-old special education student. Horn, who got married during the affair, was charged with four counts of sexual battery and one count of tampering with evidence. Horn provided doctored phone records to authorities in connection with the case. The Columbus Dispatch said that Horn violated the trust imposed upon her and her authority:

But it was more than that, said Licking County Assistant Prosecutor Brian Waltz. Although some might not take her case seriously — young, female teacher seduces 18-year-old — Horn’s victim wasn’t a savvy teen, Waltz said. He was a vulnerable student with learning disabilities who believed that he and his teacher had a future together. She didn’t just violate trust, Waltz said, she abused her authority.

Horn was sentenced to 4 years in prison in January of 2013.

In 2007 ex-Lakewood teacher William Rabel had a relationship with a 17-year old female student. The girl testified at the trial that it was a consensual relationship. The investigation into the relationship was launched after rumors surfaced that Rabel had sex with the student at his home. The students’ mother had concerns about the teacher-student relationship:

The investigation of Rabel began last March after a rumor that he had sex with the girl at his house. The victim’s mother told Ambrose that she once asked Rabel to help put an end to what she perceived was an unhealthy crush her daughter harbored for the teacher. But Rabel brushed off her concerns, the mother said, and the relationship persisted.

In March 2008, Rabel was found guilty of two counts of sexual battery and was sentenced to two years in prison.

In 2002 Christine Scarlett, a substitute teacher at Strongsville High School seduced 17-year-old Steve Bradigan, who at the time was captain of the football team. In 2003 Scarlett gave birth to Bradigan’s child. Scarlett was sentenced to three days in Cuyahoga County Jail, 180-days of community service, and five years probation for sexual battery. Scarlett showed remorse at her trial:

“From the bottom of my heart, I am extremely sorry for hurting you and your family,” Scarlett said, addressing the victim in Common Pleas Court. “I will always have to live with what I did, knowing it was the wrong thing.”

Bradigan’s father said after the trial that Scarlett got off too easily and that justice was not served because Strongsville schools officials were not “held accountable.”

In July 2009, John Bacho, a former social studies teacher at Strongsville High School was found guilty of two counts of sexual battery for having sex with a 17-year-old female student. School officials began looking into the relationship after it became a hot topic of conversation in school and on social media. The school concluded that no criminal activity occurred, but police launched their own investigation. Among the evidence against Bacho were record of 112 telephones call between him and the student in a 60-day period in 2007:

Assistant County Prosecutor Steve Gall said evidence showed that between Sept. 28 and Dec. 6, 2007, there were 112 telephone calls between Bacho and the girl, who was a junior.

“He gave her jewelry, CDs, DVDs, even his own childhood toy, a stuffed puppy dog,” Gall said. “We wanted to send a strong message that in Ohio it is illegal for a teacher to have sex with a student, regardless of the age.”

Bacho was sentenced to three years in prison in August of 2008.

Kristen L. Ross pleaded guilty to a felonious assault charge in February of 2010 for having an “improper relationship” with a 14-year-old student at Riverside Elementary School in Cleveland. Ross said in court that the relationship was not of a sexual nature:

Kristen L. Ross, 40, of Medina, turned to the boy’s parents and insisted that they never had sexual relations, even though she admitted texting or phoning the boy nearly 4,000 times last year at all hours of the day and night.

“We never got to that kind of relationship,” she said. “He was lonely. We texted a lot about many things, but we did not have a sexual relationship.”

Outside the courtroom, Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosector Ronni Ducoff said the woman did have sex with the boy and that he would have testified to that if the case had gone to trial.

The felonious assault charge stems from the psychological harm done to the boy. Ross was sentenced to 2 years in prison.

Former Akron Buchtel football coach Claude Brown pleaded guilty to two counts of felonious assault in March 2007 for having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female student. Brown and the student had sex three times between December 2006 and February 2007. Judge Marvin Shapiro received letters from the community on Brown’s behalf asking for leniency:

Shapiro hinted Wednesday that Brown’s history is much deeper than the charges suggested. The judge said he had received numerous letters of support seeking leniency for Brown, but he urged Brown to share the contents of his pre-sentence evaluation with each of the letter writers.

Assistant County Prosecutor Greta Johnson cast an unsparing light on the history, noting that Brown admitted making inappropriate comments to students for 20 years, which was “most of his adult life.”

Brown was sentenced to two years in prison with eligibility for release after six months.

Former North Ridgeville teach Constance Yacobozzi pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual battery in August 2012. Yacobozzi had a relationship in late 2011 with a 17-year-old male student. She was sentenced to three years probation and 100 hours of community service. The victim’s mother lobbied for jail time:

Betleski imposed the sentence after hearing from Yacobozzi’s defense attorney, Richard Lillie, of Cleveland, who urged the court for probation. Assistant Prosecutor Chris Pierre urged the judge to impose prison time, and the victim’s mother also argued for a harsher sentence than probation.

“I sent my son to school to learn, not to have sexual relations with a teacher,” the mother of the victim said.

She went on to say her son looked up to Yacobozzi and was manipulated into having a sexual relationship with her.

At the time of sentencing Lorain Common Pleas Court Judge Mark Betleski said he believed probation was appropriate based on the results of a pre-sentencing report.

Are tougher penalties needed for school employees who have sexual relationships with students? (poll) |

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