A former teacher's aide and coach at Conestoga High School in Tredyffrin Township was sentenced to 11 to 23 months in jail Monday for a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student she tutored privately.
Christine Marie Towers, 26, of Phoenixville, pleaded guilty to institutional sexual assault and corruption of minors at the Chester County Justice Center in West Chester and left in handcuffs. She will be on probation for five years after her release from jail and must also register as a sex offender, according to an agreement reached by her lawyer and prosecutors.
Through tears, the boy, his mother, and his grandmother all told County Court Judge Patrick Carmody of the "devastation" Towers caused their family when she started a sexual relationship with the boy last year. The month-long liaison ended with her arrest in April. The boy, who said he has learning disabilities, told Carmody that he did not understand the direction the relationship was headed and was "mostly just confused."
"She made me think I was her everything and she would go crazy if I left her," the boy said. "I cooperated with the detectives because I saw it as a way out."
After police charged Towers and word of their relationship got out, the boy said, classmates mocked him in the hallways. He quit playing basketball, in part because opposing players jeered "teacher's pet" at him. Towers has ruined his senior year in high school, he said, and he is seeing a therapist.
Towers' lawyer, Vincent P. DiFabio, said his client accepted full responsibility. She told the judge that she had "gravely" learned her lesson. "I want to deeply apologize for my actions," she said, showing no emotion.
Carmody cited a double standard for male vs. female victims when he spoke to Towers.
"If you were a male and it was a 16-year-old female, people would be outraged and screaming for blood," Carmody said.
Calling the situation "sad on both ends," the judge told her, "You threw a lot away here and made a lot of wrong decisions that resulted in someone being traumatized."
Towers worked as a paraeducator and coach in the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District from August 2014 until April 2016, according to prosecutors. She coached girls' soccer, basketball, softball, and track at the middle and high school levels.
An investigation into Towers started with a child-abuse report filed through the Chester County Department of Children, Youth and Families in April.
Towers began tutoring the student last year in math and other subjects, he told police. Their relationship turned sexual when Towers kissed him on March 17, 2016, he said.
Towers took the boy out to eat, to the mall, and on trips to Philadelphia, according to prosecutor Emily Provencher. Over the course of about a month, he and Towers had sex four times.
The student's mother said that "every day is a struggle in our home" and that her son was not the same boy he used to be. The single mother said she feels like a failure to her two sons.
"I sent them to a good school," she said, "thinking they were safe.'"