Adelaide teacher Bettina Schmoock spared jail for grooming student for sex

By @chelean on
teacher blackboard
A teacher writes the phrase "Today it is the start of the new school year" on the blackboard of her classroom on the first day of the new school year at a primary school in Nice, September 3, 2013. Reuters/Eric Gaillard

A former teacher in Adelaide who propositioned an emotionally vulnerable student for sex has received suspended jail sentence. Bettina Schmoock, 42, was a teacher at the prestigious Concordia College when she began an inappropriate relationship with a student.

She was charged with one count of communicating with the intent of procuring a child for sexual activity, which was aggravated because she was in a position of authority. In South Australian District Court on Monday, she received a sentence of 22 months’ jail with a non-parole period of 11 months. However, both terms were suspended, with Schmoock instead placed on a three-year good behaviour bond.

The court had heard that Schmoock pursued the student between November 2014 and February 2015 when she started counselling the boy, who was having “dark thoughts.” In the Skype and WhatsApp messages released on Monday, she appeared to counsel the boy initially, telling him that it was healthy to masturbate.

“I even thought of telling you to sleep with someone as it helps to get rid of aggro and tension, but then I realised you had probably not slept with anybody,” one of her earlier texts to the student read. “You should not do it with a young, unexperienced girl, because she might need you to make love to her, not have sex.”

Schmoock then offered herself to the unnamed student for sex. “I’m yours in every which way, you can count on me,” her message read. “I will teach you, body and soul, best I can.”

When the boy instead decided to have sex with a girl his own age, Schmoock didn’t take it well. She called the student “very desperate” for apparently throwing away his virginity like that.

The disgraced teacher had even proposed they meet for sex at a cottage in the Barossa Valley, but the boy declined. Nevertheless, Schmoock was persistent, even when the boy tried to end his relationship with her.

“I loved you from the bottom of my heart and you pushed me away,” she wrote. “I’m so sorry I’m not 20 and single … believe me, I’m actually quite busy and desirable.”

Schmoock, a German national who is married with two children, tried to blackmail the student in fear that he would report their relationship to authorities. “U my dear can f--- my career, and my children’s future,” she wrote. “For the love of God, please delete our threads.”

The boy then blocked his teacher from the messaging apps and confided in his parents. Schmoock was arrested the next day.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, the student said he felt emotionally blackmailed into a relationship that he did not want. He said he had called the Kids Helpline anonymously a lot to avoid mandatory reporting.

“I felt like there wasn’t any other option than to keep it secret because she said she would kill herself if anything happened to her job,” his statement read.

Her defence team told the court that she had been affected by a four-month-long hypomanic episode as part of her undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Judge Gordon Barrett took into account her mental health at the time. The judge also acknowledged that Schmoock’s sexual proposition was to satisfy an emotional desire rather than a physical one. He considered her apprehension and anxiety caused by her possible deportation to her home country, although he said it would be wrong for him to speculate the possibility of her being deported would warrant her a lesser penalty.

“You have no prior convictions, this offending is different to most types of this offending which come before the court,” the judge said. “You are acutely aware of the harm you have done and you are receiving treatment to prevent it happening again. You are remorseful and have family responsibilities.”

Schmoock will be eligible for parole in March 2019.