Therese Gunn admitted Friday that she’d had a sexual relationship with one of her students. The 54-year-old, now-former orchestra teacher said she couldn’t believe she’d done it, and that she’d made a poor decision, and that she was sorry.
She then changed course, however briefly, and blamed her victim — claiming the then-17-year-old boy had coerced her into the relationship that developed at South Gwinnett High School.
“He did,” Gunn said in front of Judge Warren Davis. “He was like a used car salesman.”
Davis didn’t care for that argument, nor did prosecutor Karen West. And after Gunn entered her guilty plea to a single count of sexual assault by a person with supervisory authority, the judge sentenced her to serve just 90 days in prison.
The remainder of her 10-year sentence will be spent on probation.
“I don’t find that you're the kind of person that needs to be warehoused for years,” Davis said. “We get those cases and we get them out of society as long as we can. You're not one of those. But you clearly betrayed the trust that you had of parents, this parent, putting this child in your care.”
Gunn, who worked as a teacher for 25 years and had been at South Gwinnett since 2002, was arrested in May 2016. At the time, police said she had held a relationship with the student, whom she taught for three years, for several months. Sexual activity allegedly "occurred at the school, at the teacher's [Loganville-area] residence and at Lenora Park.”
The relationship came to light after the student's mother found his journal and reported the relationship to police.
Under Georgia law, sexual contact between anyone with supervisory or disciplinary authority — such as a law enforcement officer, teacher or psychiatrist — and a person under their care is illegal, even if it’s consensual.
Gunn was the fourth Gwinnett teacher arrested on sex-related charges during the 2015-16 school year. Since then, three more Gwinnett County Public Schools teachers have arrested on similar charges, including former University of Georgia football player Mikey Henderson.
Another teacher who worked at the private Providence Christian Academy in Lilburn was also arrested earlier this year.
In their initial press release regarding Gunn’s case, Gwinnett County police said they had "discovered that the teacher hosted a party at her home in Grayson.”
“During the party, the teacher allowed the 17-year-old and two other female students to smoke marijuana under her direct supervision,” police wrote. “According to the detective, the teacher smoked marijuana as well."
Gunn was initially charged with multiple counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, but was not indicted on those charges.
The victim that Gunn admitted to having sexual encounters with briefly spoke in court Friday afternoon. He said Gunn “made [his] adolescence hell.”
In other Gwinnett news:
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.