By: Charlotte Smith
Updated: Many have been following the court case of Shanna May Harrelson, born January 30, 1979. Shanna was a former science teacher at West Bladen High School. On the Monday before Independence Day, Shanna plead to two of the charges against her at the Bladen County Courthouse.
According to court documents, Shanna was scheduled to go to trial on Monday, July 16th. The charges against the defendant were disseminating obscene material to a minor, one felony count of crime against nature, and one felony count of a sex act with a student. Shanna decided to take the plea deal on Monday, July 2 instead of taking her charges to trial.
Judge Sasser presided over the case. Shanna plead no contest to disseminating obscene material to a minor and one felony count of crime against nature according to her attorney. The felony count of a sex act with a student was dropped by the State during the plea hearing.
Judge Sasser heard a statement given by Quintin McGee with the District Attorney’s Office with the permission from Shanna. According to McGee in the spring of 2017 Captain Jeff Tyler with the Bladen County Sheirff’s Office received a tip from leadership at West Bladen High School about inappropriate actions by a staff member. Detective Morgan Johnson investigated the report in April and May of the same year.
After meetings with the school’s staff members and students Johnson found evidence Shanna owned two phones. One of Shanna’s phones contained inappropriate material she showed to her students who were minors around 15 years of age. The minor students told Shanna the material was inappropriate. The teacher showed the students the material anyway according to McGee’s statement; which lead to Shanna’s charge of disseminating obscene material to a minor.
McGee went on to state Shanna was meeting with students after school because of a leadership role she played in an extracurricular club. In 2016, Shanna met a 17 year old student in the Science Lab at the school and a sexual relationship began; however, the relationship was consensual according to McGee. If the relationship had happened outside of the student-teacher relationship, it would not be against the law according to McGee, therefore, the charge of felony count of sex act with a student was dropped.
The District Attorney’s Office did make note the students involved are apprehensive about having to testify in a court hearing. After McGee gave his statement of the events leading to the charges, Shanna‘s lawyer said the statement would be contradicted in a court case. However, Shanna did want to plead no contest to the two charges held against her by the State of North Carolina according to her lawyer.
Before sentencing was handed out by Judge Sasser, he informed the defendant the maximum sentence for the two charges she was facing is 48 months in prison. Shanna‘s attorney pointed out she had no prior criminal history. The defense attorney also presented Shanna‘s educational degrees, awards and her family relationships to the Judge in hopes for mercy on her for sentencing. Due to the age of the student Shanna allegedly had sexual relations with and the fact the relationship was consensual McGee said the law did not deem it necessary to have Harrelson file as a sex offender; but Shanna‘s teaching credentials should be forfeited.
McGee addressed the court saying, “Bladen County should know students are being educated by teachers, not preyed upon.”
At the end Judge Sasser sentenced Shanna to two consecutive suspended sentence of eight (8) months up to 19 months in prison on the condition Shanna serves 36 months of supervised probation, forfeits her North Carolina teaching credentials and pays attorney fees, court costs and other legal fees.
Shanna does not have to register as a sex offender according to McGee. After court was dismissed Shanna could be heard laughing while going over the paperwork from the court hearing. BladenOnline.com did reach out to Shanna for a statement about her plea, but Shanna did not make any comments.
Do to miscommunications this article was updated.