Teacher convicted of sex offenses
by Anna Oakes
A former Watauga County Schools teacher pled guilty in Watauga County Superior Court on Wednesday to charges of indecent liberties with a child and sexual activity with a student.
Judge Phil Ginn sentenced Amy Tilley Bower, 45, of 279 N.C. 194 S., Vilas, to 16 to 20 months in prison followed by five years of supervised probation for two counts of indecent liberties with a child, a Class F felony, as well as two counts of sexual activity with a student, a Class G felony.
In addition, Bower must pay $6,922.37 in restitution, a $200 fine and court costs, and she will be held responsible for the costs of any future treatment for the victims, Ginn said. He ordered Bower to undergo sex offender treatment, and she is required to register on the N.C. Sex Offender Registry for a period of 30 years. Ginn also indicated that Bower's teaching license would be revoked as a result of the conviction.
"These cases are always sad cases for everybody involved," Ginn said prior to handing down the sentences.
Bower was charged with the offenses, which involved two male students, on Aug. 28, following a report made to the Watauga County Sheriff's Office on July 23. Bower resigned from her position as a fifth-grade teacher at Cove Creek School on Aug. 19.
Arrest records originally indicated the students were 15 at the time of the incidents, but Watauga County Sheriff's Office Capt. Dee Dee Rominger said in court Wednesday that the two students were both between the ages of 12 and 14 during the times of the sexual misconduct, which occurred between 1998 and 2000 and between 2004 and 2006.
According to Watauga County Schools, Bower served as a substitute teacher during the 1996-97 school year, primarily at Bethel Elementary, before being hired at Bethel in January 1997 and teaching there for approximately five years. She then took a one-year leave of absence before working at Mabel Elementary from 2004 to 2009 and then at Cove Creek beginning in August 2010, the school system said. She also worked with summer school at Cove Creek in June 2006.
Rominger said the victims were not students of Bower's at the time of the abuse.
By pleading guilty as charged, Bower relinquished her right to a trial by jury.
Bower was allowed to read an apology to the court prior to sentencing.
"I would like to apologize to the young men involved for any harm I have caused you. Please forgive me," Bower said. She said she "was in a dark place for so long" and "had no idea what harm my actions would cause."
Assistant District Attorney Britt Springer, chief prosecutor for the 24th Prosecutorial District, said earlier in the week that a plea offer had been extended to Bower, who was represented by Winston-Salem attorney David Freedman. Springer said she could not discuss the details of the plea offer but noted that offers are not always for lesser charges.
"Ms. Bower took advantage of a position of trust," Springer said during court Wednesday.
Ginn said that by law, the maximum combined sentence for Bower's charges was 164 months in prison. He noted that Bower had no prior convictions.
Marshall Ashcraft, spokesman for Watauga County Schools, said on Thursday that upon learning of Bower's conviction, the school system took immediate action to notify the state Board of Education and request that her teaching license be revoked.
"The revocation of a teaching license is permanent," Ashcraft said.