A former Redlands high school teacher convicted of having sex with her students could next face a civil suit, an attorney for one of her victims said.
Laura Elizabeth Whitehurst, 28, pleaded guilty to sex acts with three boys and was sentenced to one year in jail this week. She gave birth to a child by one of the boys this summer.
With the plea deal, she admitted guilt to six counts -- four for unlawful sexual intercourse and two for oral copulation of a person under 18.
"This is a slap in the face to the victims," said attorney Heather Cullen, whose law firm represents the family of the boy who fathered a child with Whitehurst.
Cullen said her client and his family were aware a plea deal might be struck but never thought it would be so generous. She said her client's family will pursue other avenues, including civil litigation, to ensure such "injustice doesn't happen to other children in Redlands."
Whitehurst was arrested July 1 on suspicion of having sex repeatedly with a student from Citrus Valley High School. She gave birth in June to a child fathered by the now-17-year-old student, who was present at the birth. The boy's mother complained to school officials.
"This is a very short sentence for such crimes," Cullen said. "It's shocking anyone would face so little time for abusing minors. This is definitely being treated differently because they are boys and she is a woman."
After Whitehurst's arrest, two other former students came forward, saying they also had sex with the teacher during her six-year tenure with the Redlands Unified School District.
In addition to jail, Whitehurst must serve five years’ probation, undergo counseling and register as a sex offender for life. She will serve her time in county jail but could be sent to state prison if she violates the terms of her parole, said San Bernardino County Deputy Dist. Atty. Melissa Rodriguez.
Rodriguez cautioned that the goal of the criminal justice system "is both justice and rehabilitation." She said the victims wanted to move on with their lives and the case resolution allows that.
Legal experts say far longer sentences are typically handed out for educators convicted of sex crimes with students. Dmitry Gorin, a former L.A. County sex crimes prosecutor and defense attorney, said two years or more in prison is typical.
But, he added, prosecutors may have considered mitigating information about her background, mental health and the victims' positions.
Whitehurst joined the Redlands Unified School District six years ago as an English teacher at Redlands High and allegedly began sexual relationships with two boys, one who was 14, authorities say. She was charged with sex crimes involving both those boys, who are now adults.
Whitehurst's attorney James Gass described his client as "a clean-cut American girl sitting in jail, so she's having a hard time. But she will be OK."
Whitehurst resigned from her job earlier this month.
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