Crime

Former Lincoln High teacher pleads guilty to child rape

A 25-year-old former math teacher at Tacoma’s Lincoln High admitted Wednesday in Pierce County Superior Court that she had sex with two students and communicated with others about sex.

Meredith Powell pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree child rape and one count of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes, all felonies.

Judge Frank Cuthbertson ordered Powell, who’d been free on her personal recognizance pending trial, be taken to jail to await her Aug. 29 sentencing. She faces a standard-range sentence of three years, 10 months to five years in prison.

However, attorneys will recommend she be sentenced to six months in jail and three years of sex-offender treatment under a program available to first-time offenders, said her attorney, Wayne Fricke.

She also will be required to register as a sex offender.

“She’s the adult. She’s the one is who is responsible on a lot of different levels, including being a teacher,” Fricke told reporters outside court in explaining why his client pleaded guilty.

“She was going through a difficult time in her personal life and obviously made a lot of bad choices, regrettable choices.”

Deputy prosecutor Sabrina Ahrens dropped a fourth charge against Powell, second-degree sexual misconduct with a minor.

Powell was arrested in February after allegations arose that she had sexual contact with several students. On Wednesday, she admitted she’d engaged in sex acts with two boys between the ages of 14 and 16. Both were students at Lincoln.

Powell resigned and surrendered her teaching certificate not long after her arrest.

Shannon McMinimee, attorney for Tacoma Public Schools, attended Wednesday’s hearing and talked to reporters outside court.

She said she was glad Powell took responsibility for her actions, and the attorney praised Lincoln staff members for coming forward when they learned Powell was engaging in inappropriate conduct.

“It was a tremendous challenge for staff and students,” she said. “Ms. Powell was liked by her co-workers, and they were very devastated that she had violated the trust they had placed in her.”

McMinimee said the school district has offered services to the students who were victimized.

“We’ve also tried to work with the families of the students involved to ensure the damage to them is mitigated to the extent possible,” she said. “It’s important to remember that these are child sex crimes, regardless of her age.

“She’s 11 years older than her victims, at least one of her victims. There’s no circumstance in which a teacher should be taking advantage of the trust put in them to harm children.”

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