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Published: Friday, 3/17/2006

SNAP calls punishment for student 'outrageous'

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Long Long
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AYERSVILLE, Ohio - Ayersville High School's decision to bar a student from spring sports because of "moral infractions" related at least in part to an affair he had with one of his married teachers isn't sitting well with an area group fighting sexual abuse.

"I think what they're doing is outrageous," said Claudia Vercellotti, co-director of SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and other church leaders.

Ms. Vercellotti said she fears Ayersville's decision will lead teenagers who have been sexually abused to be less likely to come forward, feeling that they might be blamed or punished by people who say it takes two to tango.

Ayersville Local Superintendent Tod Hug said he had been called by a SNAP representative and received a two-page letter from Ms. Vercellotti yesterday asking him to reverse the district's decision. But Mr. Hug said the student was barred for more reasons than have been made public.

"I sympathize with the organization and their concern for youth - and it's warranted," Mr. Hug said. "But there's just a lot more to this."

Because he is not allowed to publicly discuss student discipline, he said he was unable to elaborate on the district's position.

The fact that the student is barred from spring sports was made public Monday in a statement from his mother that the Defiance County victims assistance director read during the sentencing of Nicole Marie Long in Defiance County Common Pleas Court.

Long, who pleaded guilty to sexual battery, was sentenced to 90 days in the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio, Stryker.

She also lost her teaching license and must register as a sexually oriented offender for 10 years.

She will be on probation when she is released from the regional jail, and during that time, she will not be allowed to have unsupervised contact with juveniles or to go on school premises without the permission of her supervising officer.

She gave birth to a son five weeks ago and is "quite confident" that the baby is her husband's rather than her student's, her attorney told Judge Joseph Schmenk.

Long originally denied almost everything about the affair to Defiance County sheriff's investigators when they responded to an anonymous tip in January, according to sheriff's records.

But she later admitted to having sex with the student, who was then 17, in her Defiance home and in a Cincinnati-area hotel room in June.

Long taught English at Ayersville. They became friends, according to the student's statements to sheriff's investigators and talked about tough times.

The student talked to her about a girlfriend, he told investigators. Long told him "her dad was never there for her and they never saw each other and her husband was never home," the student told investigators.

They exchanged text messages on their mobile phones so often that the student ran up a $200 bill. The mobile phone bills are what helped cool the relationship. The student's mother and Long's husband both saw phone records, according to sheriff's records.

To Ms. Vercellotti, that meant Long was manipulating the student into believing that what was happening was special. That, she said, is far more dangerous than physical force.

The sex between Long and the student was a crime only because she was his teacher. The age of consent in Ohio is 16.

But Ms. Vercellotti said the fact that the student was 17 at the time did not make him an equal player with Long, who is 29.

"Make no mistake, sexual crimes committed against kids are about power and control - even when the perpetrator is an attractive female teacher," Ms. Vercellotti wrote to Mr. Hug.

Even if the student had violated school codes in other ways - sheriff's investigators interviews with his mother indicate "a little bit of juvenile trouble involving a girl" recently - the affair with the teacher should not be considered in discipline, she said.

"I suspect this student feels a tremendous amount of guilt and pain that will manifest itself in other ways over his teacher being sent to jail," Ms. Vercellotti wrote. "I also suspect that other students have already held him in contempt in the court of teenage public opinion. He needs your help, not your condemnation."

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-337-7780.



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