Middle School Teacher Gets 3 Years for Sending Nude Photos to Student, 14, and Having Sex with Him

Stephanie Peterson, 27, was sentenced to 3 years for victimizing her 14-year-old student

stephanie-peterson
Photo: Volusia County Sheriff's Office

A married former teacher in Florida who admitted to having sex with a 14-year-old student and sending him nude photos has been sentenced to three years in prison, PEOPLE confirms.

Stephanie Peterson, 27, who previously taught at New Smyrna Beach Middle School, admitted her guilt Oct. 16 as part of a plea agreement, reports the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Asked in court during her sentencing Wednesday what she would like to say to her victim, Peterson said, “I’m sorry,” according to Orlando TV station WKMG.

After Peterson’s arrest in February, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office alleged that her relationship with the male student had begun about three months earlier, and was discovered after the victim revealed it to his parents.

“The student, an 8th grader, told detectives Peterson would send him nude photos,” according to a sheriff’s office news release. “He said she started coming to his home at night, picking him up around 11 p.m. on several occasions and bringing him back around 1 or 2 a.m.”

The sheriff’s office statement continued: “The victim reported that Peterson told him they couldn’t tell anyone about their relationship or they’d get in trouble. He also said she bought him marijuana and bowls for smoking it, and his grades suffered after their relationship started.”

Peterson pleaded guilty to the second-degree felony of lewd and lascivious battery sex with a child and the third-degree felony of electronic transmission of material harmful to minors, reports the News-Journal.

Without the plea agreement, Peterson had faced up to 15 years on the first charge and five years on the second if her case had gone to trial, according to the outlet.

Her defense attorneys, Aaron Delgado and William Hathaway, filed a motion prior to sentencing asking for leniency, arguing in part that the 14-year-old was a “willing participant,” the News-Journal reported.

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Calls by PEOPLE to the defense attorneys were not immediately returned.

Victim’s Mother: He ‘Can’t Find His Old Self’

Authorities said the relationship started after Peterson lent the victim her phone so he could check his Instagram, and that he later received a message from her on his own account after he failed to sign off. Their subsequent interactions on Snapchat included the student’s receipt of a nude shower photo sent by Peterson in which her face was visible, according to the News-Journal.

They had repeated sexual contact, including in Peterson’s car, on the couch in her home and in a barn behind the victim’s house, authorities said.

The victim’s mother testified during the sentencing hearing that her son remains scarred, and is now bullied by other students as a result of his experience.

“He is no longer the funny, vibrant, light-hearted child we knew,” she testified, according to the News-Journal. “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.”

A psychologist who testified during the sentencing said Peterson was bipolar and may have suffered a manic episode, prompting “irrational and impulsive” behavior that led her into the relationship with the student as a way to seek attention, reports WKMG.

Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano accepted the conclusion of mental illness but said at his sentencing that Peterson had to held accountable her actions, according to the outlet.

The three-year prison term he handed down will be followed by a period of probation with Peterson required to register as a sex offender.

“You have to pay for this mistake,” the judge told Peterson. “You’re so smart and do the most insane of acts.”

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