Charges of rape and sodomy were filed Tuesday in Murray County District Court against a former, long-time Dickson teacher, and District Attorney Craig Ladd said cases against the 30-year-old woman remain under investigation in Carter and Love counties.
Ladd said he filed a total of four felony counts against Stephenie Nicole Ringwald.
"The Murray County investigation was complete," Ladd said. "After reviewing the reports, I determined that she should be charged with two counts of rape 2nd degree and two counts of forcible sodomy. She is represented by counsel. Arrangements are being made to secure her initial appearance before a Murray County judge on the charges, and I anticipate that the initial appearance will be conducted later this week."
The charges allege Ringwald, while working as a teacher at Dickson Public Schools, committed all of the acts against a 17-year-old student at her Sulphur residence. The charges accuse Ringwald of "unlawfully, willfully, knowingly and feloniously" committing the crimes in June or July. Court documents list more than 20 witnesses for the state in the case against the former teacher. If convicted, she faces 1 to 15 years in a state penitentiary per rape charge, and up to 20 years in prison on each of the sodomy charges.
Meanwhile investigations targeting Ringwald continue in Carter and Love counties. The district attorney said those investigations revolve around allegations the teacher furnished alcohol to minors.
Carter County Sheriff Ken Grace told The Ardmoreite Sept. 1 that multi-county inquiries into the teacher's actions had been launched in August.
"They are serious allegations, and when there are children involved, we are going to investigate it thoroughly. Our job is to protect people, especially children" Grace said.
Ringwald resigned her position as a Dickson Middle School English teacher and the high school cheerleading coach Aug. 20, saying in a formal written statement, "I would like to inform you that I am resigning my position at Dickson Public Schools effective immediately. Thank you for the opportunities that you have provided me over the past 10 years."
The board of education accepted the resignation during a special meeting Aug. 26.
Ringwald told The Ardmoreite Aug. 27 her resignation was the result of a classroom incident. However, she confirmed she was aware parents were lodging complaints against her.
"It goes with the job," she said.
Sherry Howe, Dickson Superintendent of Schools and Ringwald's mother, defended her daughter at the time, claiming the allegations were fabrications.
"The rumors are inaccurate," she said. "I don't know what you are hearing, but they are inaccurate."
Slightly more than a month after her daughter resigned, Howe negotiated a severance package with the school board on Oct. 1. A crowd of an estimated 100 parents and students waited out the 1½-hour executive session that ended with the announcement that Howe's resignation was immediate. While the meeting drew some support for the longtime educator, the majority of the crowd cheered the announcement.
"Unfortunately, Ms. Howe's daughter, who was a schoolteacher, was implicated in perhaps contributing to the delinquency of minor students. Ms. Howe demanded and obtained her daughter's resignation," said Howe's attorney, Richard O'Carroll, Tulsa, in a press release.
But many parents criticized what they said was Howe's refusal to act on complaints against her daughter. Those complaints were the same that led to the Murray County charges against Ringwald Tuesday and the pending cases against her in Carter and Love counties.