The parents of a Twinsburg High School student noticed that he had become more withdrawn and realized he was drinking and hiding bottles of liquor and wine in his room.
They had the 17-year-old boy go to a therapist, but only realized the source for his turmoil when police knocked on their door. A teacher had admitted to having sex with their son.
"You have seriously injured this boy," the father of the teen told former Twinsburg teacher Laura Bucy during her sentencing Wednesday. "We fear he will never be the same. I hope the court sends you to prison."
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Susan Baker Ross took this advice and sentenced Bucy to two years in prison. Bucy faced up to five years and will be eligible for an early release after six months.
Bucy, 34, pleaded guilty in June to sexual battery, a third-degree felony. Prosecutors dismissed a charge of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.
Bucy began working as a family and consumer sciences teacher in Twinsburg in August 2017. She admitted — first to a family member and then to police — having sex once with a male student, then 17, at the high school and sharing illicit images with him.
Before her employment in Twinsburg, Bucy worked for the Ravenna, Akron and Strongsville school districts. Prior to that, for brief times, she was a student teacher in the Akron and Springfield districts and a substitute teacher with the Cuyahoga Falls district.
After her arrest, Bucy resigned her position in Twinsburg, surrendered her teaching certificate and dropped out of graduate school.
The student’s father said Bucy told his son that he could never tell anyone what happened because she could lose her job and her children.
The teen’s mother said her son didn’t go to his senior prom and hasn’t dated anyone since this occurred.
"He’s supposed to feel safe and protected at school — and you took that away from him," she said to Bucy.
In a written statement, the student, who wasn’t in court, said he felt he had to go along with whatever Bucy wanted and worried that she might change his grade or that he would get into trouble if what happened came to light. He said he kept the secret even as it took a toll.
"I pray you are never allowed to work with students," he said. "No kid should ever have to go through this."
Assistant Prosecutor Brian Stano said some people incorrectly think that a male student can’t be abused by a female teacher in the same way a female student can be sexually assaulted by a male teacher.
"That myth and hypocrisy needs to die here and now," he said. "Sexual assault causes pain and devastation — no matter what the genders are."
Stano urged Ross to impose prison time.
Larry Whitney and Joe Gorman, Bucy’s attorneys, asked Ross to consider probation. They noted her lack of a prior criminal record and how she self-reported her inappropriate behavior. Whitney said Bucy has been hospitalized for mental health treatment and has been in counseling.
"She has a great deal of remorse," Whitney said. "She wants to get to the bottom of why this occurred. She wants to get this behind her."
Gorman noted that Bucy has the support of her family, including her husband, parents and in-laws, who were in court for her sentencing.
Bucy apologized to the teen’s family, her family and her colleagues.
"They all deserve better and I’m sorry I allowed this to occur," she said tearfully. "I do not believe this incident is a true reflection of who I am and will never let it happen again."
Ross said she was alarmed to learn that Bucy had inappropriately texted with a student at another district where she worked prior to the Twinsburg incident. She said she thought prison time was warranted but said she will consider granting Bucy an early release.
Ross designated Bucy a Tier 3 sex offender, which means she’ll be required to report her address every 90 days for the rest of her life.
"Good luck to you," she said to Bucy. "Take advantage of this time."
"Thank you," Bucy responded, as deputies led her away in handcuffs.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.