I-Team: Ex-sub teacher faces prison for student relationship - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Ex-sub teacher faces prison for student relationship

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LAS VEGAS -- A former Clark County substitute teacher is facing as many as 21 years in prison after pleading guilty to two felony counts stemming from a romantic relationship she had with a student.

Tanikka Queen, 22, agreed to a plea deal. She was facing numerous criminal counts. As part of the deal, 43 counts, including felony kidnapping charges, were dropped but she still faces the prospect of prison time, plus the label that will follow her the rest of her life -- that of a sexual predator. Queen and her parents spoke exclusively to the 8 News NOW I-Team and shared their story.

By court order, Queen will report Thursday and begin an evaluation process that will determine whether she should serve hard time for what she'd done. Whatever plans the young woman had for her life are gone. She will never teach again. And wherever she goes, she will have to register as a sex offender. It is a totally unexpected development for a young woman who has always been a model student and high achiever who graduated from both high school and college early, had the support of a loving family, and seemed destined for great things.

"I enjoyed having something to do every minute of the day for me. Sitting still is just like, what am I gonna do? I want to keep going and going and going," Tanikka Queen said.

For all of her young life, Queen has been a whirling dervish and force of nature, an honor student, athlete, and self-starter. 

"I liked school, and school just became everything for me. I remember when I got my first "B" in high school, when I was a junior and in college as well, and I was devastated. I cried and cried," she said.

On Friday and Saturday nights, when kids her age were out partying, Queen was hitting the books.

"Studying, and I had a job. I worked two jobs starting my junior year, so in my third year of college I had two jobs and went to school, and during high school, I was playing a sport and going to college at the same time."
 
She is exactly what parents hope their children will be. 

"Where most kids are hanging out, partying, what not, she would buckle down, get in her room and do her homework. That came first," said Carless Queen, Tanikka Queen's father. 

"Never in trouble. She had a 3.85 GPA all through school, and in college. She was the kid who would email the professor three weeks prior to the class starting to get the syllabus," her mother, Nancy Queen said.
 
"She was a bit of a nerd. She was always in the books," Carless Queen added.
 
So how did she end up in court, facing 45 criminal counts, including kidnapping and sexual assault of a minor? Her sobbing face is the one the public has come to know. Tanikka Queen was arrested in mid-March, charged with having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student at Hyde Park Middle School, where she worked as a substitute teacher.

                                                     Read the arrest report for Tanikka Queen

Although she initially denied an affair, she later confessed to police after being confronted with the contents of more than 2,400 text messages that passed between her cell phone and that of the student. The two professed their love for each other, spoke about kissing. The boy even referred to Queen as his wife. At one point, Queen warned the student that "people are getting suspicious ... we Ota cool it down." And she acknowledged she was "putting her job on the line" talking to him.

The judge in Queen's case even questioned her about the charges.

"You understand you are being charged with luring children with the intent to engage in sexual conduct?"

On Wednesday, Queen agreed to a plea deal by pleading guilty to two felony counts. She will be sentenced in September after authorities conduct a psychological evaluation to determine if she is a threat to do anything like this again.
 
In the week since Queen's been free on bail, she has regained her composure and steeled her resolve. Unlike the month she spent in jail, she did not break down in tears when speaking to the I-team, but the torment she feels lurks just below the surface. 

"Everybody thinks dads aren't supposed to cry. I heard my dad cry and then, I didn't think. I felt so bad about what I did, and myself, that I didn't even want to go home when this was all over. I felt like I just failed. I had such a good upbringing, such good parents and such good morals instilled in me, I felt like I made them look like bad parents, and I couldn't handle that myself," Tanikka Queen said.

"Because she was such a good person. She is a good person. She is a good girl. She has so much heart," her father said. "The things that people say and the things that people think about someone they don't even know."
 
When asked if he thought his daughter was a predator, Carless Queen said, "Yeah, and the thing is, she is not that person. But, in the eyes of the law, she is that person."
 
"Society tends to forgive and forget. Not in this situation. It will never happen. She will never be the same. She has the mark of Cain upon her and it won't be taken away," attorney John Momot said.
 
Momot, a veteran attorney, says he's had very few clients like Queen in his many years of practicing law, meaning those who do something that is otherwise so completely out of character. Momot has issues he would like to have raised at trial but Queen confessed before he took the case. He notes that she is only seven years older than the student, but thinks the gap may be even smaller in reality.
 
"She comes from a sheltered background and is totally inexperienced and because of this, overstepped her boundaries. She's a kid. She's 22, but in my eyes, a kid, she's a young 22, going on 15," he said.

"You go into that shell, like an armadillo to protect yourself. You go into a shell, nothing can hurt you and you go into a shell and keep it inside and eventually it just all came out in tears and questions of why did this happen to me? Why did I do that, why did this happen, why can't it be better? How does something like this happen?" Queen said.

                                                  Tanikka Queen regrets relationship with teen student

She is now part of a long list of teachers -- male and female -- who became romantically involved with students. Momot says there were issues he would have raised if it had gone to trial, both about the school district's oversight of young teachers and about the 15-year-old boy who was the other half of this relationship.

As a condition of I-Team's interview, George Knapp was not allowed to ask about the specific acts involved in the case.
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