“It’s a natural instinct to kiss a child who just pushed you down on a desk?”
A California middle school teacher claimed in court Wednesday that she was pressured into giving an eighth-grade student oral sex because she thought the boy would expose their relationship if she didn’t comply.
The former Tenaya Middle School teacher, identified as 33-year-old Justine Karen Nelson, testified Wednesday in Fresno Superior Court that after exchanging close to 100 pages of Instagram messages with the boy, she gave in to pressure to be intimate with him. According to prosecutors, that intimacy included kissing and oral sex.
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Nelson, who said she cared for the teen, testified she felt powerless to turn him down after he threatened to expose their relationship to school administrators. Nelson said she felt in fear of losing her job and her own child because of the relationship.
At the time of the incident, the boy was 13 and Nelson was 31. She acknowledged that she knew the relationship wasn’t appropriate. She is facing felony charges of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor and oral copulation. If convicted, she potentially faces eight years and eight months in prison.
Prosecutors dispute Nelson’s version of the story, noting that none of the Instagram messages the two exchanged contain threats to expose the teacher. However, Nelson claims the threats took place in person.
Nelson said the teen came into her classroom and pushed her onto her desk before and then kissed her, causing her to scream his name before he ran off. Nelson claims she hoped her husband, who works at the same school as a gym teacher, would hear her screams.
Asked by Deputy District Attorney Liz Owen if she kissed the boy back, Nelson replied that it was possible.
“It’s a natural instinct to kiss a child who just pushed you down on a desk?” Owen asked Nelson.
Nelson claimed that after the kissing incident, the student then began to pester her for oral sex. She said she gave into the boy’s demands because she felt out of “options.”
“I just wanted to get it over with,” Nelson testified. “I was so sick and tired.”
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Nelson denied having romantic feelings for the student, instead insisting she just “cared about him as a person.”
The teen, now 16-years-old, testified last week that it was Nelson who initiated the relationship with him. He claims Nelson invited him to her classroom, where she kissed him and gave him oral sex. According to the teen, the sex acts occurred multiple times, sometimes in the middle of the school day between classes and after school.
Prosecutors say Nelson sent the teen semi-nude photos and referred to him as “boo” and “love” in private messages.
Initially, Nelson lied to police about her relationship with the teen. She denied messaging the student, sending semi-nude photos, or giving the boy oral sex. She later said she didn’t want to lie anymore.
Prosecutors sought to drive that point home.
“Did you have (the student’s) penis in your mouth, was he aroused, did he ejaculate and was he in the eighth-grade when you did that?” prosecutors asked Nelson.
“That’s correct,” Nelson responded.
A study published in the Journal of Social Psychology in 2011 tested the theory that “male teachers are judged more harshly than female teachers for engaging in heterosexual intercourse with a student” and found that “a reverse sexual double standard was revealed, in which participants judged situations involving male teachers more harshly than they judged situations involving female teachers, but only when the sexual contact was teacher-initiated.”
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