(Daily Mail By PAUL THOMPSON And RACHEL QUIGLEY) – An elementary school teacher has been jailed for 40 years for having sex with a 14-year-old student.
Shannon Alicia Schmieder, 39, was told she will have to serve 20 years – by far the toughest sentence ever handed out by a U.S. court to an educator accused of underage sex.
Legal experts said the jail term was the same for manslaughter and other serious crimes.
The 39-year-old knew the boy since he was born and was at one stage like a mother-figure to him, according to his family.
His mother said: ‘She was a close family friend. We had gone to the same church together for 10 years. Our children were friends. Our families were friends. We did everything together. It’s impossible to describe how we felt to find out this was going on.’
The victim’s parents noticed a change in the relationship between their then 13-year-old son and Schmieder, saying she was acting more like a friend than a parental figure.
It was when they opened the boys Facebook page they realized something was wrong.
The mother said: ‘Never in a million years did I think I would find what I thought was evidence of inappropriate behavior between them. But there it was.’
The sentence was handed out after the mother of his young victim spoke of her ‘heartache and betrayal’ after discovering her son was involved with Schmieder.
In an emotional impact statement to the court, the mother spoke of the loss of innocence of her son and how she is struggling to come to terms with what happened to him.
The mother said: ‘As a mother of five boys, there are some things I’ve thought I would never have to worry about. April of last year our world was turned upside down.
‘We were told by investigators that our 14-year-old was a victim of child molestation. This was horrifying and unbelievable. I prayed that this was not true.
‘The more evidence that came out the truth became real, and I began to deal with grief, denial, guilt and so many other emotions.
‘During this time I still was trying to maintain being a wife and mother. How could I have missed this… what mother can’t protect her child? I trusted so much and believed that this friend was a gift from God.
‘Words can’t begin to explain the heartache we’ve experienced this past year and the betrayal we’ve endured. Messages that were recovered showed me more and more evidence and it became a living nightmare. I couldn’t bear the thought of my boy trusting someone that had clearly manipulated him.’
Coweta Superior Court Judge Jack Kirby imposed the sentence on the recommendation of the DA’s office.
Coweta Judicial Circuit Senior Assistant District Kevin McMurry said of the harsh penalty: ‘The state of Georgia has very strict sentences against child molestation. When I was negotiating this sentence, I treated her like I would a male perpetrator.
‘We believe that children deserve to be protected. This woman groomed and enticed a young boy she knew from birth to engage in these sexual acts. I crafted the sentence to take these things into account.
‘We want to send a message that this will not be tolerated. I actually reduced the charge from aggravated child molestation – which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years – to child molestation – with a maximum of 20 years – but wanted to ensure she would still receive a harsh sentence which recognized the life-long impact and damage done to this child.
‘Children are important and they deserve to be protected. She abused her position and the trust bestowed on her from the family and she had to be punished for this.’
The victim’s mother said her son had trust issues as a result of the affair.
She said: ‘We’ve all been in counseling for several months and we’ve been made aware of so many others that are victims of child molestation and sexual abuse.
‘We were forced to realize that role models of our community like preachers, teachers, scout leaders, coaches, and even mothers that you love and trust, and have known for years, and you would believe would never hurt your child could be a sex offender. This is physically and emotionally hard to accept.’
In a final address to the judge Jack Kirby before he imposed the sentence, she added: ‘We are continuing to hurt. We will struggle in fully trusting again and we will never understand the betrayal… and still today the dishonesty.’
Schmieder worked as a teacher’s assistant at Jefferson Parkway Elementary school in Coweta County, Georgia.
She pleaded guilty to two charges of child molestation following her arrest last April.
The parents of her victim, who was not a pupil at her school, found out about the affair when the discovered a series of explicit messages on his computer.
After alerting police a forensic examination of the boy’s home computer revealed Schmieder was involved in a sexual relationship.
She was arrested and charged following an interview with detectives.
Schmieder’s case – though unique because of its harsh sentence – is by no means a rare incident.
There have been countless reports of female teachers in schools across America abusing their relationship with male students and engaging in sexual relations with them.
Leading child psychologist, Dr Michael Oberschneider, who sees both teenagers who have been sexually abused and the adults who sexually abuse, said having sex with older women, especially women in a position of power is a badge of honour for some boys and their peers.
‘There is a certain mystique around the older woman in our society,’ he added. ‘If it was a man (who is abusing) in our society we are harsher, but when it’s a woman we kind of wonder about it.
‘It’s still a horrible thing, but I think there is also a little bit of unconscious permission in society. It seems to be not quite as bad when an older woman does something with a younger boy.’
Dr Oberschneider is not connected with the Schmieder case.