Donna Thornton
The Gadsden Times

An Etowah County judge sentenced a former West End High School teacher to 20 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to two sex offenses and a violation of the law against school employees having sex with students.

Sonya Ann Wilks Bailey, 56, of Arab, was booked into the Etowah County Detention Center after she was sentenced by Judge Sonny Steen, and given the maximum sentence for second-degree rape, second-degree sodomy and a school employee engaging in a sex act with a student.

Bailey entered a blind plea in October, pleading guilty to all three charges.

Those charges, lodged in August 2017, followed an investigation by the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office into allegations that Bailey engaged in sexual relations with a 14-year-old student and sent the student sexually explicit photographs.

She was sentenced after a hearing, with testimony presented by both the prosecution and the defense.

Bailey was arrested in August 2017. Just hours after her arrest, the Etowah County School Board held an emergency meeting to accept her resignation from her job at West End High School, where the school’s website identified her as the school’s computer technology instructor and webmaster.

She was allowed to resign, Superintendent Alan Cosby said at the time, as soon as the offenses she was accused of came to light.

The case was prosecuted by Etowah County Deputy District Attorney Brynn Crain.

“We are very pleased with the court’s sentence in this case. We felt that a precedent needed to be set that this community will not tolerate a school employee using their position of authority to prey upon their students,” Crain said, “and we feel that the court set that precedent by giving the maximum sentence.

“Every parent deserves to have the peace of mind that when they drop their kids off at school they will be cared for and protected, and not victimized,” Crain said. “The victim and the victim’s family showed a tremendous amount of courage throughout the prosecution of the case, and their bravery and strength are responsible for the justice that was served.”

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