Thursday, February 21, 2008

Former Teacher Gets 6 Years for Sex With Students

Allena Ward Faced 90 Years Behind Bars

The chants of "racist" outside the Laurens County Courthouse were a response to what was going on inside.

"Their children have been damaged for life, but who cares," Rev. David Kennedy said. He is a community activist and friend of some of the victim's and their families. He believes Ward's punishment was very light because she is a white woman who victimized black children.

24-year-old Allena Ward was sentenced to 6 years in prison by Judge Casey Manning. She faced a possible 90 years behind bars for the six charges she was facing.

Ward pleaded guilty in September to having sexual relationships with five of her former Bell Street Middle School students in Clinton. She has been on house arrest for the last year since her arrest in February of 2007.

Reporter Kristen Nastasia asked 8th Circuit Solicitor Jerry Peace if this is a light sentence. "You can understand the families being upset," Peace answered, "But when you look to see how these cases are resolved, this is an appropriate range in how they are resolved. I would have been happy with anywhere from five to eight years and with six, that is in the range," Peace said.

Nastasia then took the racism concerns to Solicitor Peace: "Do you think this was a racist decision in any way," Nastasia asked.

"Did you see who the judge was? It's hard to say it was a racist decision when we had Judge Manning on the bench. You can be dissatisfied with things, but racism doesn't play in this case at all," Peace answered.

Judge Casey Manning is an African-American and Peace says Ward's defense team decided to plead their case in front of him.

An emotional case, where a young teacher admitted her guilt and apologized Tuesday in front of her parents, family and the five victim's families.

"I wish healing for each person effected by my carelessness and offer my deepest and most sincere apologies to these young men, their families and this community," Ward said in court.

Ward will likely only serve 85% of her 6-year sentence. She will have to be housed in a maximum security prison due to the nature of the crimes.

A psychologist also took the stand today in Ward's defense diagnosing her with dependent personality disorder and a sexual disorder. Dr. Deborah Watson blamed Ward's bad decision making, in part, to these mental issues.