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Wake ex-teacher pleads guilty to sex charge involving student

Shannon Best, who taught at Sanderson High School, admitted to kissing and fondling a female student and sending nude images of herself in text messages.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A woman who taught at Sanderson High School and admitted to kissing and fondling a female student pleaded guilty Wednesday in Wake County Superior Court.

Raleigh police arrested Shannon Lynn Best, 28, in April on a charge of taking indecent liberties with a student by school personnel. She pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor attempted crime against nature and giving alcohol to a student.

"We wanted to make sure she pleaded to something that was on her record, so, if someone did a background check, it would be a red flag that it was something they needed to inquire about," Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden said.

In a search warrant, police said Best told investigators she had been involved with the 18-year-old student for about a month and also that she sent nude images of herself in text messages during a sleepover at her apartment in North Raleigh.

State statute provides no age of consent when the alleged suspect is a teacher and the alleged victim a student, even if the relationship is consensual.

Cruden said in court Wednesday that the student's mother found photos on her daughter's cell phone of her daughter drinking and kissing Best. The student told her mother they were a joke and that it was a dare.

Cruden said the student and her parents agreed to the plea deal so that the family, which has had a strained relationship, could begin to mend it.

"The victim, even though she shouldn't, feels some guilt about this," Cruden said. "This is a decision she made, also."

As part of the plea, Best received a 45-day suspended jail sentence and 18 months' unsupervised probation, and she must pay a $250 fine and court costs. In addition, she cannot have any contact with the victim nor be around minors without supervision. She will not have to register as a sex offender.

Best's defense attorney, Lee Turner, said his client, who resigned from the Wake County Public School System in April after nearly four years of teaching at Sanderson, knows what she did was improper and irresponsible and that she is devastated by what she did.

Turner said she comes from a family of teachers in Kinston and that he has received e-mails and letters from colleagues and parents about how she was a motivational teacher who inspired children who did not want to be in school.

She is now working at a restaurant in Sampson County, where she grew up, but hopes to get back to teaching someday, he said.

"Her whole life was planned around being a teacher, and apparently, she was a very good teacher from all I've learned," Turner said. "Hopefully, somewhere, someone down the line will give her an opportunity again."

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Amanda Lamb, Reporter
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