Photo Credit: WLWT
Former Highlands High School Teacher, Andrea Conners -33, has been in the Campbell County Detention Center for 4 days now. It should be noted that throughout this process, which began to unfold when she abruptly resigned from the school in early May, she had yet to see the inside of a jail cell.
First a few thoughts on the details of the case that came out at her sentencing hearing in front of Judge Fred Stine last Wednesday.
Probably the most newsworthy piece of information was the fact that the victim in this case had been hospitalized 4 times for his own medical issues since the accusation and following admittance of guilt of Conners' and his sexual encounters. This is a direct result of Conners' illegal conduct and goes to show exactly why this is a crime and not just something these young men can crow about to their friends.
It may very well be the case that this "atta boy" attitude that our society has adopted in female teacher-male student inappropriate relationships could and should come crashing down as a result of this case. The victim in this case (and all cases like this) are just too young and too inexperienced in life in general to know how these sexual encounters will affect them now and in the future.
In some cases, emotional and/or physical damage may very well not be experienced until years down the road. For this victim, it almost had an immediate effect on his life.
90 days is jail - not prison - is the bulk of what Conners received. She also received probation, has to register as a sex offender and loses her teaching certificate forever. Sources say that her marriage with her husband, who's an elementary school principal in Cincinnati, will likely not last. Her two children will forever have to answer questions about this from their peers. Her life in this area of the country is unquestionably ruined.
Initially though, looking at other similar cases, it seems that Conners got off pretty easy with what she received from Judge Stine in terms of the jail sentence. Campbell County Commonwealth Attorney, Michelle Snodgrass, argued for 18 months to serve in the Kentucky Department of Corrections - a much tougher place to serve that where she is currently. The defense argued for straight probation, no jail time.
Looking at former Mason teacher, Stacy Schuler's, 4-year sentence for similar sexual encounters with her students, it seems on the surface Conners again got off easy. There are three possible factors that helped her case on this front.
1) She admitted guilt right away. It came out in the sentencing hearing that upon being confronted by Highlands officials and police, she admitted to the sexual encounters right away. A very stupid thing to do, legally, but probably the thing that kept her from a longer jail sentence. Judges do not like wasting tax payer money on long, drawn out trials.
I remember thinking how crazy it was that she pled guilty so early in late June. It turns out that after admitting to the crimes right away, she didn't have much of a choice.
2) While Conners' sexual encounters wasn't just a one time thing (having admitted to having sex over a 2-month time period in her classroom at Highlands, at a state park and her parents' home) it was apparently just the one victim. In contrast, Schuler had preyed on 5 of her students at Mason High School.
3) Letters from family and friends to the judge may have helped tipped the legal scales in her favor. Most notably, Former Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher, wrote a letter on Conners' behalf. Streicher, like Conners, is from Delhi. Other letters in the Pre-Sentence Investigated Report reviewed by Judge Stine included letters from the victim's family and a letter from Conners' husband, in which he asked that the mother of his children receive no jail time.
Since this news broke in early May, I've been commenting that in the wake of this unfortunate situation, Highlands has come out as good as it possibly could considering the circumstances. The timing of her resignation gave Highlands the summer to wipe the slate clean and cut down on rumors and innuendo echoing through the hallways for months. The guilty plea of Conners in June kept a lot of the salacious details out of court records. And let's face it, they should thank their lucky stars former Dixie and Ben-Gal Sara Jones, is embattled in a similar legal battle that has the nation gripped.
With the details of the victim having been hospitalized because of the relationship with the former Highlands teacher, I wouldn't be surprised to see Conners - and possibly the school district - being named as a defendant in a civil case.
I've talked to a legal analyst who has experience with these types of suits, and they contend these types of civil suits against school districts are not unprecedented. Especially since at least one of the sexual encounters happened in a Highlands classroom.
This situation is unfortunate. Andrea Conners is an outlier, not the norm. Here's hoping that the victim recovers, Highlands' reputation recovers, and Conners learns her lesson.