Melissa Sutterfield, 42, a former elementary school teacher in Spearman, has plead guilty to felony charges of Having an Improper Relationship with a Student in the small town school district where she worked, according to a press release from the Office of 84th District Attorney Mark W. Snider.
The charges, a 2nd degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison, stem from an incident in February of 2013 where Ms. Sutterfield admittedly sent a sexually explicit photograph to a then 17 year old student at Spearman High School. Snider said that two victims were originally involved with Ms. Sutterfield, but that the Office combined the cases. The victim in this particular case was one of Sutterfield's former elementary students.
Although contact between an adult and a 17 year old is not illegal, a Texas law makes any contact between a primary or secondary school student of any age and a teacher in the same district a felony offense, said Snider in a phone interview. If Sutterfield had not been employed by Spearman ISD at the time, no crime would have been committed.
After Sutterfield enter her guilty plea, Judge William D. Smith handed down a sentence of 5 years probation and a $2,000 fine. The victim's mother, who was in attendance during the sentencing is "in agreement with the recommended sentence," according to the DA's office.
Sutterfield has been ordered to follow a set of sex offender guidelines and not to have contact with anyone under the age of 18. Sutterfield will not be required to register as a sex offender, said the release, but she must attend sex offender counseling where polygraph "lie detector" tests will be administered. If she violates her probation, Sutterfield could be sentenced 2-20 years in a state penitentiary.
Sutterfield is not currently employed at Spearman ISD or any other school district, and Snider's office will be in contact with Spearman ISD, as required by law, and the Texas Education Agency. "Her license is likely to be revoked," said Snider.