Deputies: New Smyrna Beach teacher had sexual relationship with 8th-grader

14-year-old's grades suffered due to relationship with 26-year-old teacher

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. - A 26-year-old former New Smyrna Beach Middle School science teacher was arrested Wednesday after an eighth-grade student told his parents about their alleged secret sexual relationship.

Deputies with the Volusia County Sheriff's Office said the relationship between Stephanie Peterson, also known as Stephanie Ferri, and the 14-year-old boy started in November. The victim was a previous student of Peterson's when he was in seventh grade, according to the arrest report.

"The young man was a student of hers last year and this year was her teacher's aide," Sheriff Mike Chitwood said.

The victim told his parents about the relationship after another teacher called the victim's mother because the boy had asked if he would mentor him, according to a news release.

The 14-year-old asked his mother, jokingly, if she was worried the male teacher would molest him, according to the report. The boy started crying and said "anyone could molest you." The boy's mother said she immediately thought of Peterson, because her son would often visit her classroom and she bought him McDonald's often. 

After a few minutes the boy disclosed that he and Peterson had a sexual relationship and he had been sneaking out at night to meet her, the report states.

"The parents got wind of it, and they confronted the teacher about breaking off the relationship. We believe sometime in January, they either resumed or continued the relationship. At that point, the family came to the police," Chitwood said.

The student told a detective that Peterson sent him nude photos through Snapchat and Instagram. Detectives said they were able to identified Peterson, because her face was visible in the photos.

According to the arrest report, Peterson would pick up the boy from his home after 11 p.m. while her husband was at work, bringing him home around 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. the next day.

The victim told authorities that Peterson said he couldn't tell anyone about their relationship or they would get in trouble. He said she bought him marijuana and a bowl to smoke out of.

Detectives noted that the victim's grades started to suffer after the alleged relationship began.

"They put them in situations where they gain their trust, they gain their confidence and then here you go again," Chitwood said of the former teacher. "You have another person who's in a position of power, who abuses that power and is abusing a young student."

Peterson is charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious battery and one count of transmission of harmful materials to a minor. She was booked into the Volusia County Branch Jail Wednesday morning and her charges carry a $25,000 bail.

Officials with the Volusia County School District said Peterson has resigned from her teaching position. A spokesperson for the district said Peterson worked for the district since 2010, first as a substitute teacher and later at Creekside Middle from 2013 to 2016 and then New Smyrna Beach Middle School as a science teacher since August 2016.

Detectives said they are looking for any possible additional victims. Anyone with information is asked to call the Volusia County Sheriff's Office Child Exploitation Unit at 386-323-3574.

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