A former Shawnee Mission West High School teacher faces up to 17 years in prison after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual relations with students.
Michelle Preston, 28, pleaded guilty Monday inside a downtown Olathe courtroom to three counts of unlawful sexual relations with students occurring between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2010.
Prosecutors say Preston had sex 15 times with students from September 2010 through December 2010 inside her Lenexa home.
Prosecutors said semen was found on a sofa cushion of one of the students. Prosecutors said she initiated all three relationships with the students through Facebook.
Nude photos of the teacher were circulated among the students. Those photos led to discovery of the illicit relationships. The Shawnee Mission West principal learned of the photos and contacted police.
As part of the agreement, both sides are asking for probation, even though prison time is expected based on state sentencing guidelines.
Sentencing is scheduled for June 1.
District Attorney Steve Howe said Preston violated the trust of her students, even if the relationship was consensual and they were legally of age.
"That's why we developed this statute, because of the power differential between a teacher and a student," Howe said. "That is the reason for the statute to cover ages 16- to 18-years-old, when they are still students and have unlawful sex with a teacher."
Preston's contract was not renewed last spring by the Shawnee Mission School District after she was placed on administrative leave in March.
She was also involved in a serious, one-car crash in Miami County immediately after the criminal inquiry began earlier last year. Her attorneys deny that she was attempting to commit suicide.
"People can make that assumption if they want, but that's not my assumption," said defense attorney Scott Toth. "She accepted responsibility through the plea. She's looking forward to putting this behind her. She has a newborn baby and a family and wants to work toward the future at this point."
Preston was the freshman cheerleading coach. She also taught psychology and world geography.
The district said Preston had acted inappropriately with students. She was an employee of the district for three years. The district contacted police after receiving allegations about Preston's contact with students.
Preston grew up in Lansing and graduated from Lansing High School. Her district bio had said she was married to a 2002 Shawnee Mission West graduate.
Howe said a male teacher would have faced the same repercussions and Preston wasn't treated any differently because of her sex.
Howe said that the victims were all over 16 years old made the difference when it came to prosecutors recommending probation.
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