Former Mason High School teacher Stacy Schuler walked out of prison Tuesday afternoon after a Warren County judge granted her request for early release.
Schuler, 34, has been at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville serving a four-year sentence following her conviction on Oct. 27, 2011, for having sex with five students and providing them with alcohol.
The former health and physical education teacher was found guilty of 16 felony counts of sexual battery and three misdemeanor counts of providing alcohol to minors. The incidents occurred between August and December 2010 at her Springboro home.
“I’m glad that the judge saw that one year in prison, the loss of her teaching position and the fact that she has to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life is punishment enough,” said her attorney Charlie H. Rittgers.
Schuler was processed and released from Warren County Jail at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, just hours after the judge issued his ruling. Rittgers said she will be living with her parents in Montgomery County because she has lost her home. Schuler’s home was sold in February for $215,000, below the home’s assessed value of about $240,000.
She and her parents, who attended the hearing, declined to comment. But in a statement during court, Schuler acknowledged not setting appropriate boundaries with students and allowing substance abuse to cloud her judgment.
“I know that I can’t take back some of the things that have happened and there will be lifelong consequences from my actions and I’m very sorry for that,” she said. “I continue to pray that God brings peace to these families, the teachers and others who have been harmed by my actions.”
Schuler told Warren County Common Pleas Judge Robert Peeler that she had used her year in prison to participate in programs that will “prevent me from making very bad decisions in the future.” She attended weekly Alcoholics and Co-Dependents Anonymous classes, took courses in domestic violence and setting boundaries, attended religious services and is undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder and depression.
Prosecutors argued that Schuler, who faced decades in prison on the charges, already received a break in sentencing and that her early release would send the wrong message about the ways in which male and female sexual offenders are treated.
One of the five victims testified in court Tuesday morning. The lingering emotional turmoil has caused him to take a leave from his college classes, he told the judge.
“I trusted Ms. Schuler during a rough time in my life and she used that trust against me,” he said. “Most people in society feel that it’s every 17-year-old male’s fantasy to sleep with their teacher. Being young and naive at the time, it was. What most people fail to realize is that this fantasy could be turned into a nightmare that I’m still living in today.
Parents of some of Schuler’s victims testified that their sons continue to suffer emotional trauma and public embarrassment.
“One teacher, five students, 16 counts of sexual battery, three counts of offenses involving underage students, 12 months in prison; it amounts to just under three weeks per count,” the mother of one victim said. “It is appalling and I strongly object. Our lives have been ripped apart, torn upside down.”
All five teens, who were about 17 years old at the time, gave graphic testimony in the four-day bench trial. They said that Schuler was drinking alcohol at the time of the incidents, was a willing participant and initiated much of the contact.
Schuler’s attorney argued she suffered from a host of medical and psychological problems exacerbated by her use of Zoloft and copious amounts of alcohol.
Peeler said he believed Schuler suffers from mental health and substance abuse issues, but sentenced her to four years, with the possibility of early release after serving only six months.
Schuler’s attorney applied for early release on May 31, but the judge ordered additional psychological testing before he would consider the request.
Peeler said he received dozens of letters of support for Schuler, including one from one of her victims who felt Schuler needed mental health treatment and had served enough time in prison. Two other victims asked the judge to keep Schuler locked up.
Peeler said he made his ruling based on the seriousness of the crimes and Schuler’s likelihood to re-offend.
“I find that a sanction other than continued prison time would adequately punish this offender and would adequately protect the public from recidivism,” he said. “It is impossible to make everyone happy in a situation like this. In my heart, and considering every factor, I think this is the right decision.”
The judge ordered Schuler to five years community control, during which time she must undergo drug and alcohol treatment, psychological treatment and counseling for sex offenders.
She is not permitted to profit from her story for the period of her probation and will also have to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life.