on August 13, 2014 - 10:42 AM
, updated August 13, 2014 at 11:34 AM
A former Williamsville teacher caught kissing a 13-year-old boy apologized Wednesday for her behavior, but it didn’t stop a judge from giving her jail time.
Donna M. Sleap was sentenced by Amherst Town Justice Geoffrey Klein to 30 days in jail and three years’ probation for kissing a middle school boy in a school storage room last December. Sleap, 50, also was ordered to stay away from the boy for five years under an order of protection.
Sleap, who has since resigned as a teacher in the Willliamsville Central School District, stood before the bench and apologized for any emotional harm she caused the boy and his family.
“I’m sincerely sorry for my actions,” Sleap said in court, while surrounded by her husband, Robert, and attorneys Mike Seibert and Thomas Trbovich. “I sincerely apologize to them.”
The former art teacher previously pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child after she was caught on surveillance video kissing the 13-year-old student on the mouth while in a school storage room of Casey Middle School.
Neither the boy nor his family was in court Tuesday. Instead, Rosanne Johnson, chief of the Special Victims Bureau of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, paraphrased a letter from the boy’s father, who said the teacher took advantage of his son and he worries about the “permanent scars” this may leave on the boy. The family wants justice.
Seibert, meanwhile, revealed in court that Sleap was diagnosed with a brain tumor at about the time of the incident, and was suffering from anxiety and depression.
“I unfortunately believe this had a lot to do with the decision Mrs. Sleap made that day,” Seibert said.
Seibert said his client is being treated for the tumor and is doing fine. However, the attorney told the judge he is worried that Sleap’s medical treatment would take a step back if she is sent to jail.
“I ask your honor to take this into consideration when handing out a sentence today,” Seibert said. “Mrs. Sleap has taught thousands upon thousands of children and this is the only time she has made this mistake in her life.”
Klein made few remarks when sentencing Sleap, but read a laundry list of conditions regarding her probation. Sleap – who had a number of supporters in courtroom, including her three children – was handcuffed and taken to the Erie County Holding Center.
Sleap could have received up to a year behind bars.
Her attorneys were a bit surprised their client received jail time for her first criminal offense, although they prepared her for the possibility.
“I thought it was possibly a little harsh with the 30 days of jail,” Seibert said outside the courtroom. “I thought she should have just been given straight probation and allowed to continue with her medical treatment and the counseling that we have at this time.”
School administrators began an internal investigation in the fall and notified the Amherst Police Department and the state Department of Education after school staff members told them about concerns over Sleap’s behavior.
The surveillance camera was installed in the supply room because the school district suspected she was “inappropriately amorous,” Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita III previously said.
Sleap was placed on administrative leave in December and arrested in January.
As part of Sleap’s guilty plea to the misdemeanor, she relinquished her state teaching certificate and resigned from her position as an art teacher.