Former teacher accused of sex with student out on bond

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November 20, 2006

A former Columbia County teacher faced a judge for the first time today after being arrested for having a relationship with a 16-year-old student.

Parents, listen up: 12 is On Your Side with what you need to know about teenage sex and the age of consent.

This case is unique. Sexual relations with a student are against the law. But this minor student is legally old enough to consent.

Chase has been released on a $100,000 bond. She gets to wait at home while attorneys work out all these details.

The former Harlem High School softball coach looks forward to joining her family after spending several days locked up after the 16-year-old's mother found three love letters exposing a three-month long relationship.

Assistant District Attorney Adam King argued in front of Judge Brown to keep Chase in jail.

"The state shares the concern with the victim's family that if the defendant is released, she will try to contact the victim in this case," he said.

But her attorney Greg Leopard says that's not the case, and the $100,000 bond the judge set is too steep.

"I don't think the community understands the extent to which this punishment could affect her for the rest of her life," he said.

The question is, whose side is the law on? Technically, the girl is old enough to make up her own mind. In Georgia, 16 is the legal age to agree to sex. But the law says it can never happen between teachers and students.

School board member Mike Sleeper says an inappropriate relationship can be physical, verbal, and written.

"An educator is more or less the parent, and it's just inappropriate abuse of trust parents put in us," he said.

Now it's up to the court to decide if the relationship was inappropriate, and Melissa Chase will wait at home with her family until the day that decision is made.

Chase's attorney says the investigation should be finished early this week, and then a grand jury will decide if there is enough evidence for formal charges.

The terms of her bond will keep her from any activities involving minors, and she cannot leave the area.