- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

NEW BRIGHTON, Pa. (AP) - A substitute teacher who had sex with two 18-year-old students while her husband was away has been ordered to stand trial on a felony violation of the Pennsylvania School Code.

But Tiffany Leiseth’s defense attorney said the 26-year-old high school teacher didn’t commit a crime because the students were also adults and therefore old enough to consent.

“As morally offensive as it might be to some people, you have two 18-year-old men involved with a woman who is over the age of 18,” defense lawyer Michael DeRiso said after Leiseth’s preliminary hearing on Tuesday.

But Moon Township police and Allegheny County prosecutors disagree.

They contend - and a district judge agreed in sending the case to trial - that the young men were still considered students because, even though classes at New Brighton Area High School had ended last spring, the two teens hadn’t graduated when they had sex with Leiseth.

Sex between a student and a teacher is a third-degree felony, regardless of the student’s age, police Chief Leo McCarthy said.

“Even if the sex is consensual, it’s unlawful,” McCarthy said. That specific law “provides protection for the person who is functioning at a subordinate level in an institution.”

The teens both testified that the substitute English teacher sent them nude cellphone pictures and text messages before and after their separate sexual encounters.

A school official testified at the hearing that the New Brighton Area School District considered them students until they graduated.

“That may be in (the district’s) policy, but I’ve seen the state school code and it’s not in there,” DeRiso said.

DeRiso contends that once classes ended, the boys were no longer Leiseth’s subordinates, even if they hadn’t yet received diplomas.

Leiseth no longer works for the district and will surrender her state teaching license as the case progresses.

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