Friday, October 28, 2011

Ohio gym teacher charged with allegedly doing members of football team gets 4 years, lifetime SO registration

(Original Post 2-6-11)
An Ohio teacher has been charged with 16 counts of sexual battery and 3 misdemeanor counts of offenses involving underage persons for allegedly having sex with football team members and providing them alcohol at the high school she worked at. Stacy Schuler of Springboro OH, was charged by the Warren County Prosecutor's Office after parents went to the authorities regarding their sons' sexual contact with Schuler. Schuler's indictment can be found here.

Schuler, a health and physical education teacher at the 3,048 student-populated Mason High School, has been under investigation by police after an anonymous tip was given to school officials during the week of Jan. 10, according to Tracey Carson, schools spokeswoman. Carson said Schuler was placed on paid administrative leave on Jan. 18. During that time, Schuler was prohibited from attending district events or being on district property.

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Bruce McGary said the allegations did not happen at a party. Mason police Detective Toni Hoelke said when the parents of the students found out about the allegations, they “were surprised and that they had no idea about it.”

The Mason High School teacher, who turns 33 next week, was arraigned in Warren County Common Pleas Court Friday, February 4 and is currently being held on $50,000 bond, which she has not yet raised, according to her attorney, Charlie Rittgers of Lebanon, OH.

“We knew she was being investigated. There has been no discovery from prosecutors and we’ll be starting our own investigation.” Rittgers also stated that if she made bond, thought to be unlikely before the end of the weekend, she would have to wear a GPS monitoring device. and stay away from the victims and other Mason High students. “Anytime a teacher is accused of having sex with students, it gets peoples attention. It doesn’t surprise me with those allegations.”

Mason High school mother Ginnie Sclosser said that "It is just heartbreak all over, and I especially feel bad for the students that were involved and my heart breaks for their parents, too. It's just a bad situation for everybody,"

Schuler graduated from Centerville High School in 1996 and Wright State University in 2000. She was a student teacher at Fairmont High School in Kettering from 1999-2000, according to her file.Her duties included work as an athletic trainer for the high school’s girls and boys sports teams. She earned $53,194 in 2008, according to her personnel file.

In her Health Education Philosophy as part of her application to work at Mason, Schuler wrote that she wanted to teach students about major risk factors for teenagers including “sexual behaviors that result in disease, STDs, and unwanted pregnancies.” Part of her mission statement included “Today’s society has its own standards of behavior, values, and norms that do not necessarily reflect healthy living...How can a child who is sexually active as a teenager learn about STDs and how to prevent unwanted pregnancies?”

Mason superintendent Superintendent Kevin Bright said that “Our job at the end of the day, is to partner with our families and to empower our staff to report anything that seems out of line, and then to act swiftly when someone behaves inappropriately. He also said his district “acted swiftly, partnered with police immediately, and we are standing her[e] today because of how seriously our high school principal took an anonymous tip.”
The principal of Mason High, Mindy McCarty-Stewart sent out a e-mail to parents January 31. She said that “As high school principal, I am committed to the safety and well-being of our students, and will not tolerate behavior that does not conform to that goal. Our staff is prepared to help our students during this situation, and know how it important it is to continue to build trust with our students and families.”
Schuler isn't the only Mason High employee who has been embroiled in this scandal. George Coates, an assistant Mason High principal, allegedly sent Schuler sexually explicit images. Coates turned in his resignation and the Mason High School board is voting on whether to accept it at their upcoming Tuesday meeting. The school board is also voting on whether to suspend Schuler without pay and beging termination procedures against her at the meeting.

(Update 2-9-11) Schuler was released on her own recognisance yesterday. Conditions of release include a 8PM to 6AM curfew, no contact with any minors or high school students over 18, and no drugs or alcohol. The now former teacher must also wear a GPS device.

During the Mason School Board meeting last night, the board unanimously accepted the resignation of Schuler, who has submitted a letter of resignation Monday. They also accepted the resignation of former assistant principal George Coates. Despite this, Dr. Kevin Bright, Mason School District superintendent, faced calls from parents to also resign. One said "All this stuff happened under his watch." and another said, "It's your policies that now have cost the children their innocence. You ought to get out of Mason. Just get out of Mason. Get out."

Bright said that he reported the allegations to the Ohio Department Of Education, and "While we had begun the process to terminate Ms. Schuler, we received her resignation today and believe that accepting it will save the district a lot of legal fees, which is in the best interest of our taxpayers and students."

(Update 10-28-11) After a three day bench trial, Stacy Schuler was convicted of 16 felony counts of sexual battery and three misdemeanor counts of giving alcohol to minors in a Warren County, OH courtroom yesterday. The presiding judge was Judge Robert Peeler. All five teenage boys were over Ohio's age of cpnsent, which is normally 16, but does not exist when there is a position of formal authority.

All five teens, who were about 17 years old at time, testified that Schuler was drinking alcohol at the time of the alleged incidents, was a willing participant in the acts and initiated much of the contact.

One of the teens testified they considered Schuler’s home a safe place to get high. Several said they were high on marijuana during sex with Schuler and that she made them vodka smoothies and served them beer and peach wine.

Originally, Schuler plead not guilty to all charges, but changed her plea to guilty by reason on insanity, a plea which according to a prosecution witness, was planned by Schuler before she was formally charged. During Thursday's closing arguments, Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Teresa Hiett said that "She got drunk and made some really poor choices. Does that mean she’s insane? No. She was the adult. She was the teacher. She had the trust. It’s the relationship between the defendant and the victims that makes this a crime.”

Defense attorney Charlie Rittgers said that her condition was caused by a mixture of bipolar disorder, Zoloft, an antidepressant drug, and alcohol."The underlying disease is the bipolar. The catalyst is the Zoloft magnified by the alcohol.”

Rittgers said it didn’t make sense that a person with Christian values would risk her livelihood and freedom, and said that the evidence supported an insanity defense.

“They want us to believe that all of a sudden after 10 years teaching, she wants to throw it away to have sex with five different guys,” he told the judge. “It’s far more reasonable to believe Stacy was suffering from an underlying psychological disorder.”

Judge Peeler said that while the defense argument about the adverse reaction of alcohol and drugs or an underlying condition may explain Schuler's behavior, it does not excuse it. Being voluntarily drunk was no excuse for taking advantage of students, and that it would be "a leap" to suggest that Schuler did not appreciate the wrongfulness of her conduct.

Before the verdict, the mother of one of the victims took the stand and said while crying, "These young men may appear as if they are tough guys, but in reality they are truly hurting. (Schuler) played on their emotions and she crossed the line.”

The four year prison sentence comes with an option for early release in six months. Besides the felony convictions of sexual battery, Schuler must register as a Tier 3 sex offender every 90 days for the rest of her life. Schuler resigned as a gym teacher from Mason High school back in February.