A teacher who had sex with her teenage pupil after grooming him with X-rated photos has been spared jail.
Shannon Parsons, 33, slept with the young student at his family home in Gravesham, Kent while his parents were at work, Maidstone Crown Court heard.
She had been exchanging “flirty and sexual” messages, as well as intimate photographs with him for several months. But she waited until he was of legal age before having intercourse with him.
Parsons, from Welling, London, told cops she never thought of the teenager as a child, did not love him and it was “purely sexual.” But she added she knew it was wrong and should have ended it, the court heard. Parsons pleaded guilty to abuse of a position of trust by causing or inciting sexual activity with a child.
The relationship between the pair became public knowledge after parents of another pupil at the school raised concerns. The court heard Parsons had been working at the school for three years when the sexual intercourse occurred in 2018. Prosecutor Vivian Walters said she was considered a good teacher but was outed after parents of another student raised concerns with the school, leading to fellow pupils revealing she had had sex with the 16-year-old.
The boy told cops that he “got on well” with his teacher, and he had emailed her asking her to text him. She then used her personal mobile phone to message him back. Walters told the court their conversations were initially about “school stuff” and home life but they started seeing during lunch and immediately the boy turned 16 their conversations became more sexual.
“He said she would message him constantly, they had exchanged sexual photographs of themselves and arranged to meet for sex.” The teenager told police he ‘always felt a bit weird’ about their conversations and he would also make excuses about being busy because although at times he was ‘up for it’, the fact of who she was ‘put him off’.
Prosecutor Walters said: “They had started kissing and then had sex. He was 16. He said that after they had had sex he felt awkward. He didn’t talk to her and ignored her on Instagram.
“She tried to talk to him on exam results day….but he said he couldn’t be bothered. He also said he told a couple of mates (what had happened) which was how it got spread around.
“He said it affected him quite badly because ‘everyone was talking about it’.”
Sentencing her, Judge Philip Statman said exceptional circumstances, including her previous good character, genuine remorse, the impact of custody on her young daughter, and the extensive delay in court proceedings, meant she was given 12 months in prison, suspended for two years.
Judge Statman said that although she and the boy had had consensual sex, her behaviour had involved “significant planning and an element of grooming”.
He said: “You were the adult, he was the student, you were in your 30s, he was 16, and you had a responsibility pursuant to your profession to behave in an appropriate manner towards him.
“You failed to comply with that which was required of you. It was one thing to have an interest in the education of a student and help a student to do his very best.
“But you crossed the important boundary and you fractured the relationship between student and teacher. The abuse of that position of trust highlights just how serious this type of criminality is.”
The court heard that when a false rumour they had already had sex began to spread around the school she told the student to ‘deal with it’, fearing she would lose her job. “She was determined not to meet up with him until he was over 16 but they messaged and talked about having sex,” said Miss Walters.
“She said they exchanged intimate photographs but she said she hadn’t solicited them. She said she thought he was 15 (at that time).
“She said she wasn’t in love with him, it was purely sexual and she never thought of him as a child.
“She agreed it was not okay to do what she did but felt he wanted it to happen.” Although interviewed by police, the court was told the boy did not want to provide a victim personal statement.
His father said however that his son’s general behaviour had not been ‘negatively affected’, although he had experienced some bullying as a result.
Simon Connolly, who defended the teacher, said Parsons had admitted her guilt ‘unreservedly’ and made no attempt to either avoid responsibility or blame others.
She was also said to be suffering from mental health issues at the time and has since been diagnosed with what is known as a stress-related adjustment disorder. “It was a single incident, there was no attempt to repeat it and was followed immediately by regret,” Mr Connolly told the court.
“She has lost a job she worked hard to achieve and dearly loved. Of course, that is her own fault but that in itself is a punishment for her.”
Connolly added that immediate custody was unnecessary and ‘marginally’ not in the public interest.
As part of her sentence, Parsons must undertake 40 days of a rehabilitation activity requirement.
She was also made subject to a sexual harm prevention order for five years and must sign on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.
She will also be barred from working with children and vulnerable adults.