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Former teacher sentenced to prison on sex, drug charges

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published March 3, 2020

 Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Rae Lee Chabot sentenced Kathryn Marie Houghtaling to 4-15 years.

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Rae Lee Chabot sentenced Kathryn Marie Houghtaling to 4-15 years.

Photo by Mary Beth Almond

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A former Rochester High School teacher has been sentenced to 4-15 years in prison on sex and drug charges involving two students.

Kathryn Marie Houghtaling, 27, of Sterling Heights, pleaded no contest on six counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of delivering a controlled substance to a minor in January, two days before her trial was set to begin. 

On March 3, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Rae Lee Chabot sentenced Houghtaling to 4-15 years in the Michigan Department of Corrections on the six counts of criminal sexual conduct and four to eight years for delivery of a controlled substance to a minor, which Houghtaling’s attorney, Zachary Glaza, said are to be served concurrently. Houghtaling must also register as a sex offender. 

 

Families, former teacher speak

A mother of one of the victims said that when she sent her son to school each day, she trusted that the adults he encountered were there to educate and help her son, not harm him. 

“Never did I imagine that one of those adults would violate him by initiating a sexual ‘relationship’ with him. This relationship included unapproved rides home, alcohol — admittedly provided by Mrs. Houghtaling — sex in cars and even Mrs. Houghtaling sneaking into my home in the middle of the night to be with my son,” she said. 

When the news of the crime came out, the woman said her son became the punchline of jokes.

“(He) was even taunted by students from another school during a district basketball game where they were yelling ‘teacher’s pet’ while he was on the court. Prior to this incident, my son was a pretty outgoing kid, pretty confident. Since this incident, he has become more withdrawn. He stays more to himself, and his confidence has diminished. Going forward, I have no idea how this situation will affect his future relationships as an adult. It is my hope that Mrs. Houghtaling be punished to the maximum time that the law will allow. She has shown no remorse for her actions and has even attempted to place blame on those she victimized,” she said.

The legal co-guardian of a different victim, his great uncle, asked the court to consider the impact the crime has had on his nephew and family, just months after the teen lost his mother. 

“He should have not lost his senior year of high school and had to be moved to another school because of the ridiculous ridicule he received — notes, threats, I have them. … I understand tempering justice and mercy, but we also have a responsibility to these children who were entrusted with a professional and the state of their lives and the continuance of their lives,” he said during court.

Before Houghtaling was sentenced, she read a written statement, saying she wanted to start by “taking responsibility for my actions.” 

“I understand that my actions have consequences that will affect me, my husband, my family and friends. Having that burden on me has been a punishment I could have never imagined and never want to experience again. I want to apologize to all the parties involved, specifically to my students. I know that my actions betrayed the duty and responsibility I had to them as a teacher. I sincerely never intended for my relationship with them to cause them drama,” she said.

Houghtaling told the judge the thought of being incarcerated “is a scary one.”

“It will affect my marriage, my family dynamic, the financial situation for my husband, and my new career. … I have learned to take full responsibility for my controllable actions and seek help for those I cannot control. I’ve learned it takes a lot of inner strength to seek help,” she said. 

 

The incidents

The incidents are alleged to have occurred with two Rochester High School students, a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old, between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2018. Deputies from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said the former teacher — who began teaching for Rochester Community Schools in August 2018 — befriended the students, and drank alcohol and smoked marijuana with them after school.

Detective TasRay Copeland, of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office’s Rochester Hills substation, said one of the victims was assigned as a student in Houghtaling’s classroom. 

Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Sara Pope-Starnes said the incidents occurred inside a student’s home in the city of Rochester Hills and inside a vehicle, which was reportedly occupied by other students. None of the alleged sex acts took place on school property, according to officials. Prosecutors said they have medical evidence to support that one of the teen boys was given and ingested Xanax.

Deputies said a district parent who found a video of a group of students partying with Houghtaling had planned to bring the information forward to school administrators, but a student who was involved decided to alert administrators Jan. 8, 2019.

District officials said they immediately reported the allegations to the deputies, who responded to the school to interview Houghtaling. During the interview, deputies said, Houghtaling admitted to detectives that she had had sexual contact with a 16-year-old student and a 17-year-old student, and she was immediately terminated by the school district.

Glaza said he had no further comment on the case.

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