Hot to Trot Teach: Michelle Preston

Hot to Trot Teach Arrested For Giving A Little Extra Tutoring to 3 Students

from - A former Shawnee Mission West High School teacher will appear in court next week on charges of having sex with three students, and she could face prison under a law that was made harsher last year.

Michelle PrestonJohnson County prosecutors on Friday accused Michelle Preston, 27, of Lenexa, with having sexual relations with three students 16 years old or older. Officials did not give the ages or genders of the students.

Preston’s sex acts were allegedly committed between September and December of last year.

She could not be reached for comment Monday.

The case unfolds amid a shift in Kansas law and other efforts to deal with sex between students and teachers, including a Missouri controversy over its Facebook law.

Missouri lawmakers last week repealed a law that barred most electronic contact between teachers and students. In passing the law last spring, lawmakers worried about predatory Web interaction.

About 6.7 percent of the nation’s students are targets of educator sexual misconduct involving physical contact, according to a 2004 study.

The study found that nearly 43 percent of sexual misconduct offenders in education were women.

“The public chuckles about it and thinks the male student is lucky and that is not the case,” said Palle Rilinger, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault.

Male victims may develop difficulty with relationships, experience depression and sometimes fall into alcohol and substance abuse, she said.

“They need to learn about sound emotional relationships with someone who is on an equal relationship to them,” Rilinger said.

Preston taught psychology and world geography and coached cheerleaders. She was in her third year teaching at the high school when she was put on administrative suspension March 7 after a complaint of inappropriate relations with a student.

On the afternoon her suspension was announced, Preston was in a one-vehicle crash in Miami County and was taken by air ambulance to a hospital. Deputies said her Chevrolet Equinox went off a cliff ledge at 247th and Flint streets.

Social media sites exploded with chatter among students. Photos circulated of a topless woman purported to be Preston, while others speculated that the photos had been faked.

School district officials later did not renew her contract, reported the matter to Overland Park police and said teachers must take training on subjects like sexual harassment and must know the rules forbidding sexual contact with students.

“Everybody is keenly aware of what the board policies are,” said Leigh Anne Neal, associate superintendent for communications for the Shawnee Mission district.

Preston has her first court appearance next Tuesday.

If convicted, she could be among the first sentenced after a change in the law last year that calls for prison time instead of probation even for first-time offenders.

The Kansas law forbidding sex between teachers and students was enacted a decade ago, two years after a Johnson County judge reluctantly dismissed charges against two male former teachers accused of having sexual relations with 16-year-old female students. The judge noted that 16 was the age of consent in Kansas.

When the law was enacted, the sentence was presumed to be probation for first offenders. Now it is a presumed prison sentence of 31, 32 or 34 months.

Last year, a female former teacher in the Leavenworth area pleaded guilty to sex with a 17-year-old boy and was among the last sentenced to probation under the old law. - Michellle Preston, the former Shawnee Mission West teacher accused last year of having sexual encounters with students, pleaded guilty on thursday. The accusations first arose in March 2011. Then things got weird. On the day she was charged, the 28-year-old psychology and geography teacher, was injured after the car she was driving went off an embankment in Miami Couty. Her contract wasn't renewed in May 2011. Then Preston appeared pregnant during a court date last October.

Preston pleaded guilty Thursday to having sexual contact with three students. KMBC-9 reports the gritty details: "[Preston] admitted Thursday in court to numerous encounters with three boys from the school, including sex with two of them. Investigators said DNA from a couch cushion in Preston's home proved she had sex with one of the victims. Prosecutors said she initiated the contact with all three boys."

The boys were 17 and 18 at the time of the contact. The age of consent in Kansas is 16.

She is scheduled to be sentenced on June 1. Prosecutors will seek probation for the new mom.


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