A former teacher at Huguenot High School began a two-month jail sentence Wednesday after pleading guilty to a pair of misdemeanor charges of sexual battery involving an underage male student attending the school.
Courtney B. Stewart, 25, of the 3600 block of West Broad Street, was originally charged in March with two counts of taking indecent liberties while in a supervisory role. Both are felonies, but a plea agreement reduced the charges to misdemeanors.
Richmond Circuit Court Judge Phillip L. Hairston ordered that Stewart have no contact with the victim, and she must register as a sex offender.
Stewart, a Richmond native, was an exceptional-education teacher at Huguenot. It is unclear whether the student was in her class.
Stewart began as a substitute with Richmond Public Schools in February 2013, and was hired for her first full-time teaching position in August 2015, according to Kenita Bowers, a spokeswoman for the schools. After her arrest, Stewart was suspended without pay, and her contract was not renewed in June, Bowers said.
Stewart is no longer eligible to work in the school district in any capacity, Bowers said.
A graduate of Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School and Virginia Commonwealth University, Stewart participated in a nontraditional graduate degree program at VCU called the Richmond Teacher Residency, which requires a four-year commitment and trains teachers to work in some of Richmond’s toughest schools.
Court records show the first alleged assault occurred between Nov. 24, 2015, and Dec. 24, 2015, and the second happened sometime in February. The alleged victim was the same in both cases, the records said.
Detectives were investigating whether there were additional victims, but no other charges have been filed.
Hairston found Stewart guilty Wednesday and sentenced her to 12 months in jail on each count. Per the plea deal, Hairston suspended one sentence completely and 10 months of the second.
“Ms. Stewart does wish to start her sentence today,” defense attorney Craig Cooley said. He asked Hairston to give her credit for time served, about two days, when she was first arrested.
“She’s accepted responsibility and is ready to move on,” Cooley said after court.
Stewart was poised as the judge questioned her, though a crumpled tissue was balled in her hand as a sheriff’s deputy escorted her to a holding cell.
The Rev. Derik Jones, pastor of First Baptist Church of South Richmond, sat with the family during the short hearing and consoled them afterward. Jones currently serves on the school board, though he is not seeking re-election and his term ends this year.
“This doesn’t define her career, doesn’t define her,” Jones said. “This is the first step to moving on to a great career in what she’s trained to do.”