A female Queensland teacher has been jailed over a lengthy sexual relationships with a 14-year-old special needs student, who helped her get over a break-up.
The then 23-year-old special education teacher invited the autistic student to her home in 2011 and seduced him after the breakdown of her seven-year relationship left her lonely and depressed, the Brisbane District Court was told on Thursday.
Judge Paul Smith sentenced her to six-and-a-half years’ jail, to be eligible for parole in 18 months.
The seduction led to an 18-month affair that included frequent secret meetings for consensual sex in the back of the woman’s car, at her home, and before class in a park across the road from the southeast Queensland state high school.
The teacher, who can’t be named, bought the teen gifts including an iPhone, iPad and theme park tickets, and gave him alcohol and cannabis.
The woman’s barrister, Liam Dollar, said the liaison “made her feel like she was no longer alone and she was still somewhat desirable”.
The education department is investigating the matter after it was revealed the boy’s mother complained to the school principal in 2013 but the teacher was cleared.
The mother initially believed her son was spending his spare time with the teacher’s intellectually impaired brother.
But the truth came out after the relationship ended in mid-2012.
The teacher – now 27 and banned from teaching – initially denied everything.
But police gathered enough evidence to charge her and on Thursday she pleaded guilty to seven offences, including maintaining a sexual relationship with a child, indecent treatment of a child under care and carnal knowledge with a child under care.
“I’m extremely sorry, severely embarrassed and beyond ashamed,” the woman, now a mother, wrote in a letter that was read out in court.
“There aren’t words to convey the level of contrition I feel.”