After it was revealed that a Parkview High School student had been sexually abused for two years by her teacher, Michael “Mikey” Henderson, she didn’t receive compassion from her fellow students.
Instead, she was harassed and threatened to the point that she stopped going to school days before her high school graduation, her mother said. When she walked the stage to receive her diploma, students booed her.
Henderson, 33, pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault related to the abuse on Wednesday. He was sentenced to 20 years, with five to serve in prison and the remainder to serve on probation.
The victim, now 18, had not planned to say anything at Henderson’s plea hearing, but decided to speak up after he refused to make eye contact with her or her aunt, who delivered a prepared victim impact statement.
“He won’t even look me in the eye right now — there he is,” the victim said as Henderson turned to meet her gaze.
According to an indictment, Henderson asked the then-16-year-old to send him photos of her breasts over Snapchat in February 2015. The student also performed oral sex on Henderson on school grounds on at least three occasions.
“... I was used, I was manipulated and I thought it was something else than it really was. I never wanted it to get to this. Pretty sure you didn’t either,” she said Wednesday. “But it’s time to face the consequences.”
Henderson is one of four former Gwinnett County teachers who were charged with sexually abusing students within a two-week period in May 2017, and the first to be convicted. Villie Jones, a former band director at South Gwinnett High School, has been indicted on 21 charges of sexual assault and child molestation and will have a bond hearing on Feb. 22. Ronnie Jackson, a former Meadowcreek High School track coach, has been indicted on two counts of sexual assault for allegedly groping a female student. Derren Evans, a former long-term substitute at the private Providence Christian Academy, is pending indictment on a charge of sexual assault; he is accused of groping and forcibly kissing a female student.
At his plea hearing Wednesday morning, Henderson said only that he was there to “accept [his] responsibility.”
Henderson, a former University of Georgia wide receiver, taught broadcasting and coached football at Parkview and was a popular faculty member. Even after he admitted to sexually abusing the victim, multiple Parkview teachers came to a June hearing, hoping to serve as “character witnesses” and help Henderson get released from jail on bond. He was granted bond.
The victim was subject to harassment and threats both in person and on social media after Henderson’s arrest, her parents said in written impact statements. Judge Tom Davis, who sentenced Henderson, put the blame for the bullying squarely on the former teacher’s shoulders.
“You are responsible for every slur, every evil, nasty, despicable thing that some other high school child said to the victim in this case because you are the one who set it in motion,” Davis said.
The victim’s grades declined after the abuse began. She intended to go to college last fall, but did not enroll, according to her mother’s statement.
“She is aimless,” said the victim’s aunt. “She is still struggling to cope with what happened to her and trying to figure out where she goes from here."
Before the victim’s parents learned about the abuse, they viewed Henderson as a “great teacher and coach,” according to her father’s letter. The victim’s brother played football on a team that Henderson helped coach; now, the victim is afraid to go watch her brother play because she doesn’t want to be recognized by other students.
Neither parent was able to attend the hearing Wednesday; the victim’s mother was working out of the country and the victim’s father was on jury duty in federal court. Their statements were given to Davis, who read sections aloud.
Assistant District Attorney Courtney Spicer, who became choked up while speaking to Davis, said Henderson had abandoned his responsibility to protect the victim as a teacher.
“He used that position of authority to take advantage of a child,” Spicer said. “It’s appalling, particularly in light of what just transpired in [Parkland] Florida and seeing teachers literally dying for their students. Mr. Henderson couldn’t be more of the opposite.”
Davis said that while he personally felt that Henderson “should spend every day in prison [he] is eligible for,” he did not want to further traumatize the victim by forcing the case to go to trial.
“What you did, I don’t think I have the words to properly describe it without using words that should not be included in (the) court record,” Davis said. “I condemn you sir. You will not be able to outrun this shame. You will not be able to outrun the consequences.”
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