SHELBYVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) - - A former Shelby County teacher who confessed to sexually abusing two 17-year-old students avoided jail time Monday. After Shannon Hirchert pleaded guilty to having six different sexual encounters with two male students and sending them obscene material, a judge sentenced the former Martha Layne Collins High School teacher to seven years probation according to a recommendation from the Commonwealth Attorney's Office.
If the case had gone to trial, the former special education teacher could have gotten seven years in prison for the acts, including intercourse and oral sex while on campus. But the Commonwealth's Attorney says she wanted to spare the victims the potential pain and humiliation of testifying.
“We took into consideration the wishes of the victims in this case not to be further victimized, with that in mind we reached an agreement with the defense,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Laura Donnell.
The defense also listed Hirchert's lack of prior criminal history and that she's a single parent to a special needs child as reasons she should avoid jail time.
Hirchert did initially enter a not guilty plea. Her attorney says she regrets what the victims and the school have suffered as well as the personal tolls the ordeal has taken.
“It's humiliating; she's put her family and herself through a horrible amount of stress and worry”, said defense attorney Brian Butler.
WHAS11 asked the prosecution whether or not Hirchert’s gender affected the decision to offer only probation. The Commonwealth's Attorney said that had nothing to do with the decision.
Under this plea Hirchert will be a registered sex offender. She has not taught since she was accused last year. Her sentence requires her to forfeit her Kentucky teaching license and she cannot seek another one in any other state.