A former Florida middle school teacher was sentenced Wednesday to time in jail as well as community service for having sex with a 14-year-old student.
A Volusia County judge sentenced Stephanie Peterson to three years in prison and two years of community service.
Prior to learning her fate, Peterson read a statement to the court. She explained how she tried to use an earring to kill herself when she was arrested in February.
“Every day I wake up and ask, ‘What have I done?’ Every day I pray I will be forgiven,” Peterson said.
Peterson said she's battled with bipolar disorder and depression. She went on to apologize to the 14-year-old student and called it the worst mistake of her entire life.
According to deputies, the eighth-grade New Smyrna Beach Middle School student told detectives that Peterson would send him nude photos, and would go to his home at night, picking him up at about 11 p.m. and bringing him back hours later, the release said.
Detectives said the teen told them that Peterson asked him not to tell anyone about their relationship or they would get into trouble. The teen also said Peterson bought him marijuana and bowls for smoking it. He said that his grades suffered after the relationship started.
After the sentencing, the victim’s mother called Peterson a predator who took advantage of her son. The boy's mother said her son is teased by other students about what happened. He lost many of his friends and isolated himself from others.
She says the anger and fear he feels from being around the school kept him from going to his stepsister's dance recital there two weeks ago.
“Moments where he hated himself and what happened to him to the point where it gets overwhelming he turned to self-destruction,” said the mother, who is not being identified to protect the victim. “How is any 14-year-old supposed to emotionally handle that?”
Peterson will have to register as a sex offender. The judge is still allowing her to be around her niece and nephew.
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