Teacher gets prison for sex with student

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — An Oakland County judge came down hard Tuesday on a 30-year-old former high school teacher who pleaded guilty to having sex with a 15-year-old student.

While state guidelines suggest 51-85 months for the offense, Judge Nanci Grant sentenced Kathryn Ronk of Birmingham to 6-15 years in prison.

Ronk appeared stunned at the sentence. The former Bishop Foley High School Spanish teacher, who faced up to life in prison under the original charges, pleaded guilty last month to two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct under a sentencing agreement that ranged from no prison time to a maximum of 15 years. She can be considered for parole in 51/2 years.

While Ronk was contrite, Grant was unmoved.

The judge noted that Ronk attended University of Michigan on a scholarship, graduated with the highest of grades and went on to graduate work.

"You're really very smart, an intelligent woman," Grant told Ronk, reminding her she had to know what she was doing with the 15-year-old sophomore was wrong.

Grant noted she was disturbed by "a double standard in this society."

"If this was a male teacher who had been involved with a 15-year-old female, there would be people here hanging from the ceiling trying to get every drop of blood," Grant said. "But because it is a woman, there seems to be a winking about what happened."

In addressing the court before sentencing, Ronk sobbed as she said she was "so sorry for the victim and his family, for the school and the community, my family ... and I'm so sorry for my husband."

"With (psychological) treatment, I'm getting better," she said. "I know I have to go away but this is a lifelong journey, and I am meeting it. ... I'm so sorry for those who I have hurt."

Grant told Ronk she appreciated her contrition, especially considering letters of support she had received from the woman's family and friends, which the judge found offensive.

"I have never seen letters of support for a defendant with nothing about the victim," Grant said. "They were all about you and what you were going through. Poor you. To ignore a crime and a victim and an ongoing involvement in school, outside school, in a car. You did something you shouldn't have done."

The victim, the judge said, is "still a boy figuring out the ways in the world," and may not feel the impact of the teacher's actions "for years to come."

Assistant prosecutor Heather Brown said the boy's family felt victimized and hoped Ronk "finds her faith and it will keep her strong. (Faith) is what is helping them and will help them forgive at some point."

Prior to sentencing, defense attorneys James Thomas and Steven Lynch told Grant their client was doing her best in a "very difficult situation," including daily psychological treatment and volunteer work at a food bank.

"There's no chance of this happening again," Thomas told Grant. "She will not be in a position to teach and will not be around children (after parole)."

Both attorneys declined comment outside the courtroom.

Ronk faces more charges in Macomb Circuit Court, including rape and engaging in sexually abusive activity with children, involving the boy at his home in Macomb Township and in a car in Sterling Heights.

A trial on the Macomb charges is scheduled for March 31.