The Nebraska middle school teacher accused of having sex with a 13-year-old student and fleeing to Mexico with him has been fired.
Without public comment, the Lexington School Board voted 6-0 Monday night to terminate Kelsey Peterson’s contract.
The sixth-grade teacher had been put on administrative leave late last month after allegations surfaced that she was having an inappropriate relationship with the student.
Peterson, 25, fled Lexington with the boy, a former student of hers, on Oct. 26. They were found in a mall parking lot in the border town of Mexicali, Mexico, on Nov. 2.
She faces a federal charge of crossing state lines to have sex with a minor, which is punishable by 10 years to life in prison and a $250,000 fine. A judge denied bail for her last week.
Peterson also has been charged in Dawson County with felony counts of kidnapping and child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Lawyer: Guilty of poor judgment
Earlier Monday, Peterson’s attorney said she could be guilty of nothing except poor judgment.
James Martin Davis said the kidnapping charge against Peterson should be dropped because the boy went with her willingly, and that the boy shares more responsibility for their relationship and flight than authorities allege.
“It’s my understanding he was grooming her and she wasn’t grooming him,” Davis said. “I see true victims every day,” he added. “This young man is no victim.”
Davis also suggested that the boy — who authorities say is 13 — may actually be 16 or older — too old for a state statutory rape count to apply. A prosecutor and a relative of the boy rejected Davis’ assertions.
“Mr. Davis can allege what he wants. I’ve seen the birth certificate, and he’s 13,” Dawson County Attorney Elizabeth Waterman said.
“He’ll be 14 in January,” Laura Rodriguez, the boy’s aunt, said in a phone interview. The birth certificate was issued in Mexico, she said.
As for the boy not being the victim, Rodriguez said of Peterson, “She started up with him when he was 12. She was 24. How could that happen?”
Boy: We had sex twice
Peterson was recently moved from a federal detention center in El Centro, Calif., to one in San Diego and will be returned to Nebraska in seven to 21 days, Davis said.
“She understands what she did, and that she didn’t exercise the best judgment in leaving,” Davis said. “I’m not trying to exonerate Kelsey. I want to make sure she’s treated fairly.”
Davis declined to say whether Peterson told him she and the boy had sex. The boy, in an interview with The Associated Press last week, said they had sex twice.
The boy also said that it was Peterson’s idea to go to Mexico, but that he went along with it to see relatives and to get away from his problems.
The boy remains in Mexico because of his immigration status but might be able to return to Nebraska, at least temporarily, if he is granted a “U” visa. The visas are used to encourage illegal immigrants to report crimes against them.
“To prove their case, they have to have him come back here,” Davis said. “They’re going to have to cut him some deal to have him testify. In exchange for the promise of bringing him into the country, he may be anxious to please them and do what they say.”