A former middle school teacher in Texas who admitted to having a long-term sexual relationship with a 13-year-old boy that at one point led to a pregnancy was sentenced to 10 years in prison in what the judge presiding over the case called a message to the community.
“We want our educators to teach our students,” State District Judge Michael McSpadden said when he handed down the sentence, according to the Houston Chronicle. “We want them to keep their hands off the students."
Former Aldine ISD teacher Alexandria Vera, 24, was facing the possibility of life behind bars after pleading guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child, but in exchange for admitting to the relationship, her sentence received a cap of 30 years in prison, the Chronicle reported.
Vera was arrested after officials with Child Protective Services were notified about a possible sexual relationship between the woman and boy, whom she met when he was in her summer school class at Stovall Middle School in Houston, authorities said.
She told police that what began as messages exchanged on social media escalated in the fall of 2015 when the child asked for her phone number and then asked to hang out.
Vera drove the boy around in her car and they kissed, and the next day she went to his home when his parents were out and they had sex for the first time, she told police.
After that, the pair had sexual encounters on an almost daily basis, one of which resulted in a pregnancy, Vera told cops.
That February, an unannounced visit and questioning from Child Protective Services about the relationship scared Vera, who denied she was involved with the boy and decided to have an abortion, the documents said.
But she did allow police to search her phone, which turned up “many messages” between the teacher and her student.
The boy’s family reportedly knew about — and approved of — the relationship, inviting her to family gatherings, where she was introduced as the boy’s girlfriend, court documents said.
When Vera became pregnant, “they were very supportive and excited about the baby,” court documents said.
That approval complicated matters, including sentencing, McSpadden said, reportedly noting letters from the eighth grade boy and his mother claimed he shared in some of the responsibility.
But prosecutors argued that Vera had groomed the child and his family so she could continue the illicit behavior, including moving the boy and his father into her home under the guise that she was dating the father, the Chronicle wrote.
She also paid cell phone bills and bought groceries for the family, authorities said.
Vera's 6-year-old daughter allegedly also knew about her relationship with her student and for some time called him "dad,” prosecutors said.
"She has a history of straight-out deception," Prosecutor Denise Nichols said.
Prosecutors criticized Vera for her inappropriate behavior that extended to other students, including two other eighth graders she allegedly let have sex at her home.
Vera’s attorney argued that probation — for which she was eligible — was appropriate in this case, and called a therapist to testify about Vera’s mental state.
"I think she was driven by being in love with him," said Karen Lawson, a mental health professional who works with sex offenders, including sex addicts, the Chronicle wrote.
Vera grew up in a domestically violent household and that, coupled with a deep need for love, led to her illicit relationship, Lawson testified.
"She's someone who has a big heart," Lawson said.
Vera has been free on $100,000 bail, but has had to wear a GPS ankle monitor, stay away from schools and have no contact with the teen.
McSpadden said he did not believe Vera to be a danger to other children, specifically not in a classic pedophiliac sense.