Washington Post

Fired Md. Teacher Gets 5 Years for Sex With Boy

By Katherine Shaver
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 26, 2001; Page B08

A former Montgomery County middle school teacher who admitted having sex last summer with one of her 12-year-old students was sentenced yesterday to five years in prison, but the teacher said she is not a child molester.

Catherine Peay, 38, a former honors English teacher at Sligo Middle School in Silver Spring, pleaded guilty to child abuse and a second-degree sex offense in November. Peay admitted that she encouraged the boy, who was one of her summer school students, to sneak out of his home at night so she could pick him up and take him back to her home for sex.

But yesterday, Peay told Montgomery Circuit Court Judge DeLawrence Beard she did not mean to harm the child.

"I know what I did to [the boy] was wrong," Peay, dressed in a white sweat shirt, told the judge. "I'm not a monster; I'm not a terrible person. I did a bad thing."

Peay, whom prosecutors said told police she had sex with the boy four times, told the judge she was vulnerable to the boy's compliments during a stressful time when she was struggling financially.

"I'm not justifying anything I did," Peay said. "I didn't look at [the boy] as a 12-year-old or a child I was lusting after. . . . I was not out to abuse a minor."

The judge responded that her conduct "reflects poorly on a noble profession" and that it was "devious, immature and irresponsible."

Beard sentenced Peay to five years in prison on each count and ordered that she serve the sentences concurrently. He did not order any probation or counseling upon her release but did require that she register as a sex offender and have no contact with children under 16 without another adult around.

Peay's lawyer, Robert Greenberg, said she would be eligible for parole in about 2 1/2 years. She faced a maximum of 35 years, but nonbinding state sentencing guidelines in the case called for five to 10 years.

Peay, whom several parents testified was an outstanding and devoted teacher, has been fired from Montgomery schools. Neither the boy nor his parents attended yesterday's sentencing.

A park police officer discovered Peay and the boy about 3 a.m. on Aug. 11 in Peay's car at Wheaton Forest Park on University Boulevard. Peay initially told police she was the boy's godmother and was helping him with some problems, but the boy told police he and his teacher had "done nasty things" almost nightly for about 3 1/2 weeks, prosecutors have said.

Assistant Montgomery State's Attorney Kathy Knight said the boy now is in counseling for feelings of anger and guilt and has had to change schools twice because of other students teasing him about the abuse.

"Everybody has stress in their life," Knight told the judge. "You don't turn around and sexually abuse a 12-year-old because of stress."

© 2001 The Washington Post