Matthew Shane Wester and Amy Nicole Cox first made headlines in 2015, when the 38-year-old former high school teacher married his former student. On Monday, Alabama judge Dennis E. Odell announced the 18-year-old girl will be forced to testify against her husband, who is charged with having an inappropriate relationship with her while she was still a high school student. Odell said the teen cannot exercise spousal privilege because the law does not apply when the spouse is listed as the victim.
According to the Washington Post, Matthew Shane Wester, a former math teacher at Cleveland High School, was criminally charged in January 2015 for having sexual relations with Amy Nicole Cox, who was his student. Wester, who was also a coach, was placed on paid leave in November 2015.
— infowe (@infowe) June 17, 2015
Amid the disturbing accusations, Wester eventually resigned his positions as a teacher and a coach. Five months later, he divorced his wife and married his former student.
Although Amy Nicole Cox was 18-years-old when she married her former teacher and the age of sexual consent in Alabama is 16, the relationship was a crime because Matthew Shame Wester was in a position of power.
According to public records, the couple married on June 8, which could have affected the criminal case against the former teacher. However, District Attorney Pamela Casey publicly dismissed the marriage as “a sham” and a calculated attempt to prevent Cox from testifying against her husband.
“On June 13, 2015, just 67 days following the divorce from ‘wife No. 1,’ and less than five months prior to the initial trial setting in this matter, the defendant married the student whom he subjected to sexual contact while he was a teacher and she was a student… it is the state’s position that marriage to the student is a sham by the defendant to prevent the student from testifying against him.”
The DA further suggested Matthew Shane Wester has a strong influence over Amy Nicole Cox’s behavior and decisions, including her decision to enter into a sexual relationship with a man more than twice her age. Casey is specifically concerned the former teacher will attempt to influence the testimony of his former student.
“Clearly if a 38-year-old teacher can induce an 18-year-old student to engage in sexual contact with him and to subsequently marry him, he can persuade one who has already fallen victim to his influence that she must protect him at trial.”
Prior to his suspension, Wester taught 9th Grade Algebra, 10th Grade Advanced Geometry, 11th Grade Geometry, and 12th Grade Algebraic Connections. He was also head track coach and assistant varsity football coach at the high school. It is unclear whether he is currently employed or whether he will pursue a career in education in the future.
Unfortunately, as reported by Al.com, the case involving Matthew Shane Wester and Amy Nicole Cox is not unique.
In a report compiled by Terry Abbott, the former chief of staff of the U.S. Department of Education and current PR firm executive, more Alabama school employees are found guilty of having sexual relationships with their students than in any other state in America.
— newsaiya (@hhaiya50) June 17, 2015
In 2014, 25 Alabama school employees were accused of having sexual relationships with their students. The Census Bureau puts Alabama’s population at 4.85 million. Essentially, for every 193,975 residents, one school employee is accused of having sexual relations with a student. According to Abbott’s data, other states that are notorious for teacher-student relationships include Vermont, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
In recent months, Alabama State Senator Cam Ward sponsored a bill asking teachers to be provided with training to prevent them from having inappropriate relationships with their students. The Washington Post reports the bill was endorsed by the Alabama legislature’s education committee and introduced as the Educator-Student Interaction Act.
According to the text of the bill, “it would require training on sexual or romantic contact, social media interactions, interactions outside the classroom and the use of corporal punishment and physical restraints in classrooms.” However, Ward eventually stopped pursuing the bill as he received stark criticism for the content.
Although Matthew Shane Wester and Amy Nicole Cox were rumored to have married to take advantage of the spousal privilege, the couple insists they are truly in love. The trial is set to begin next week. If convicted, Wester is facing up to 20 years in prison.
[Image via danm12/Shutterstock]