A Tennessee woman faces 18 counts of statutory rape amid allegations that she had multiple sexual encounters with students at McMinn Central High School.
Melissa Blair, 38, allegedly provided gifts that included vape pens in exchange for sex, according to People.
She also faces four counts of human trafficking by patronizing prostitution and one count of forfeiture of personal property, according to the McMinn County Sheriff’s Office.
Blair has posted $100,000 bail and is next due in court on Feb. 28.
“It was just shocking to hear about something like that going on,” says Evelyn Dean, who lives near the small town of Englewood, where the incidents are alleged to have taken place, according to WTVC.
The station spoke to the mother of one victim but did not use her name.
“People focus mostly on the perpetrator; they don’t realize how it devastates a family, how the families are at home, and we don’t know what to do next. I have no idea how to go forward with this,” she said.
“I cannot in words describe what it feels like to be going through what we’re going through right now. It is every emotion that you can imagine. And none of them happy,” she said. “This isn’t just about putting a perpetrator behind bars. This is about families healing.”
Christie Teague, an Englewood resident and a mother of a McMinn Central High School student, said families need help.
“My heart just hurts for them because, I mean, I would be livid if it happened to my kids,” she said.
McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy says all nine confirmed victims were students at McMinn Central High School. The students involved were between 14 to 17 years old at the time of the alleged encounters.
District Attorney Steve Crump said there may be more victims.
“In a case like this, it truly is about those who were victimized. It’s not about a headline, it’s not about a trial. It’s about trying to make, as much as possible, our victims whole,” he said.
Teague said other victims need to come forward.
“Parents need to talk to their kids to speak up because it’s not right. It’s just really, really not right,” she said.
Blair was not a school employee, Lee Parkison, director of schools for McMinn County Schools, said Tuesday according to Newsweek.
“She is involved with clubs and things of that nature just like most parents involved with the school,” Parkison explained.
Blair “had a student at the school who has since transferred,” he said.