Crime

Former Gaston County teacher pleads guilty to sex with high school student

A former Gaston County teacher, who pleaded guilty to having sex with an 18-year-old student, will avoid jail time and instead serve two years of probation and surrender her teaching license.

Teika Helton was arrested and charged in 2015 for having an inappropriate relationship with a student at South Point High School in Belmont. The victim was not a student of Helton’s, but the two did meet on a school trip, prosecutors said.

Helton’s defense attorney said the sexual relationship was after the victim’s graduation.

In a plea deal, prosecutors are deferring prosecution while Helton serves two years of probation and 200 hours of community service.

If Helton violates the terms of probation, she would have to plead guilty to a class G felony, which still would not net any jail time because Helton does not have a prior record.

In court, the victim’s mother told a judge that Helton had stolen her son’s innocence and claimed Helton had been grooming her son.

“The evil that has been shown to my son by this woman is so sickening to me,” the mother said. “Things that should never have been done to him by a person who was supposed to protect our children while at school, not teach them evil ways.”

WBTV is not revealing the woman’s identity to protect the family’s privacy. The victim’s mother said Helton befriended her.

A friend of the victim later alerted the family about a possible inappropriate relationship. The mother told reporters she felt the punishment was too light.

“It’s very sad that our elected officials talk a big game about protecting our children from these predators, but in the end they do not,” she said.

Prosecutors said they would have had to prove the misconduct occurred while the victim was still a senior and said it would have been a case of “he said, she said.”

“It still comes down to what date it would be,” Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell said. “There’s no question disputing that there was the improper activity; was it after the graduation or not? He was an adult either way.”

Bell said there was a risk that Helton would still be allowed to teach if a jury found her not guilty.

“She would still have her license, she would be allowed to go back to the same high school and teach again, and what I have done is I have prevented that from ever happening,” Bell said.

He said the plea deal requires Helton to surrender her teaching license to the Gaston County Board of Education. The victim’s mother encouraged parents to talk with their sons, not just daughters, about sexual predators.

“Had it been a coach and a cheerleader, it would be a whole different ball game,” she said.

Prosecutors said they did not feel gender played a role in how they prosecuted the case.

According to Bell, the charge could be gone from Helton’s record if she does not violate her two years of probation. Bell does not think Helton will ever be able to teach again in North Carolina, because she surrendered her license as part of the plea deal.

“In my mind, this will keep her from ever being able to teach again,” Bell said. “However, I can’t say what would happen in 49 other states.”

Helton had no comment when leaving the courtroom Tuesday. She has already served 50 hours of her community service, according to her attorney.

WBTV is a media partner of The Charlotte Observer

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