A Redlands high school teacher accused of having a baby allegedly fathered by a teen student pleaded not guilty Tuesday to 41 counts of sex and oral copulation with a minor.
Laura Elizabeth Whitehurst, 28, was arrested July 1 after the mother of a Citrus Valley High student contacted school officials about the suspected relationship between her son and the English teacher.
She was charged Monday with crimes alleged to have involved the boy -- who was 16 when the relationship began, according to police -- and two other teen students who are now adults. Her arraignment by video was set for San Bernardino Superior Court at 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, according to a tweet from the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office.
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A judge denied the use of cameras in the courtroom.
"She's a clean-cut American girl sitting in jail, so she's having a hard time," her defense attorney, James Gass, told reporters outside the courtroom. "But she'll be OK."
Authorities said Whitehurst had given birth June 18 to a baby fathered by the student with whom she had had a nearly year-long affair. The boy attended the baby’s birth, according to court documents.
Deputy District Attorney Melissa Rodriguez said there was no contact between the boy and Whitehurst since her arrest. Rodriguez is seeking a protective order for the teen.
After the boy's mother contact school officials, Whitehurst and the boy confirmed details of the relationship to a Redlands police detective, according to an affidavit. Authorities made the accusations public.
Then, at least two other men came forward and said they had had sexual relations with Whitehurst in 2007 and 2008.
One of the alleged victims spoke to NBC4 Southern California, saying he never felt victimized but wanted to share his story so that others might come forward to tell police about their experiences with Whitehurst.
Officials with the Redlands Unified School District had interviewed Whitehurst and her alleged victim about their relationship in May, but police were not contacted until the boy's mother made a complaint, according to a police detective's affidavit.
On Monday, the school district issued a news release in response to the charges that stated students may receive professional counseling over the summer by calling the district office.
"Even though today’s developments were not unexpected, they nevertheless mark a sad day for our school district," the district's statement read. "Our faculty and staff are made up of caring professionals who have chosen careers as educators because they want what is best for young people. Anything that harms a student harms us all."
The charges filed by the District Attorney’s Office Monday against the teacher reflect alleged relationships with the three teen students. Whitehurst is charged with 30 counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, and 11 counts of oral copulation of a person under 18.
If convicted as charged, Whitehurst could face up to 29 years in state prison, the District's Attorney's Office said.
Whitehurst was released July 1 after posting $25,000 bail. She was again arrested Monday without incident, the District's Attorney's Office said.
She is now being held on $750,000 bail.
The District Attorney’s Office is still seeking to identify potential additional victims of Whitehurst. Anyone with information should contact Redlands police Detective Natasha Crawford at (909) 798-7623 or the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office at (909) 382-3660.
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