A former math teacher who had sex with two students at Tacoma’s Lincoln High School cried Friday after a judge sentenced her to six months in jail.
Meredith Powell, 25, told the court she prays every day for the two teenage boys and is heartbroken that they and their families are suffering.
“I feel like words can’t even express how sorry I am,” Powell said. “I wish I could take back what happened to the students that I failed. Sorry doesn’t take away anything that happened, but I hope they can move forward with as little impact as possible.”
She said she’s been attending weekly counseling and now faces problems that fueled her behavior, including being molested in her youth.
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Pierce County Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson said he believes Powell is remorseful, which is why he suspended all but six months of a 5-year sentence and ordered her into a three-year sex offender program open to first-time offenders.
Powell must register as a sex offender and can have no contact with children without adult supervision, with the exception of her younger sister.
She pleaded guilty last month to two counts of third-degree child rape and one count of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes, all felonies.
She was arrested in February after allegations she had sexual contact with several students. She later admitted she'd engaged in sex acts with two boys between the ages of 14 and 16. Both were students at Lincoln.
One of the teens went to Powell’s classroom instead of attending the school’s Martin Luther King Day assembly. The two kissed and engaged in sexual activity, prosecutors alleged.
A few days later Powell and the other boy kissed and she performed oral sex on the teen in her classroom.
Cuthbertson said he’s presided this year over four or five cases of teachers accused of having sex with students but called Powell’s “an unusual case” because there were no indicators in her past to explain her behavior.
“This is difficult, this is different, this is not what we usually see,” the judge said. “Everything suggests this is out of character for you. But again, you need to understand the severe impact that this has had not just on the victims but on their families.”
Family members of at least one victim attended Friday’s sentencing but declined to speak with reporters.
After hearing that Powell will spend six months in jail, several cursed, and one family member stormed out of the courtroom.
Although two victim impact statements were filed in the case, prosecutors said they could not immediately provide them.
Shannon McMinimee, attorney for Tacoma Public Schools, said the district was disappointed by Powell’s sentence.
“Ms. Powell repeatedly talked about letting her students down,” she said after the hearing. “The reality is she committed child rape.”
Defense attorney Wayne Fricke said Powell has not yet decided what to do with her life after she serves her sentence, but she is banned from teaching.
During the sentencing, Fricke called his client “an upstanding individual” who went through a rough patch last fall.
“She didn’t handle the situation well and got herself in this situation,” Fricke said.
Powell was arrested in February after allegations surfaced that she had sexual contact with two boys between the ages of 14 and 16.
She resigned and surrendered her teaching certificate shortly after her arrest. She began teaching at Lincoln in 2012.