Once shocking and hard to believe, revelations of sexual relationships between students and teachers have become almost a fixture in news.
But one Kentucky teacher said her arrest for an alleged affair with a 16-year-old football player was unfair and untrue and has ruined her career, possibly her life.
Nicole Howell, 26, was a first-year English teacher finishing up a lesson on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," when she was pulled out of her Dayton High School classroom in December and told she was being suspended for having sex with a student.
"I thought it was preposterous," she said.
It got worse. Howell was arrested for first-degree sexual abuse less than a month later and faces a trial in the fall. Her teaching certificate is in jeopardy and she's had to move back home with her parents.
All for an affair that she says not only never happened, but one that there is no evidence of other than the ramblings of a high school kid who at first claimed the two were involved in a threesome with another male student.
Howell is now planning to sue the school district, the police department and the boy who she says made it all up.
The Covington Police Department did not return messages seeking comment and the accuser's parents could not immediately be reached.
Howell, a graduate of Northern Kentucky University, said she was inspired to become a teacher by one of her former high school teachers.
When she was hired at Dayton High School, Howell said she found it challenging. The town was home to many low-income families and the schools often went without.
"I liked it a lot," she said. "It was a lot, a lot of work."
She was also an assistant cheerleading coach, putting her right in the middle of a throng of cheerleaders and football players who practiced and socialized side-by-side.
Howell said the beginning of her first year as a teacher was going well until early December when she started hearing rumors in the hallway.
"There were a couple of students snickering about a teacher involved in a threesome," she said.
Then the second boy who was supposedly involved, then a senior, told her the rumors were about himself, her and the accuser.
"I'm a first-year teacher," Howell said. "I didn't know what to do."
So she sought the advice of a fellow teacher who told her to speak to the principal to get ahead of the rumor mill.
The principal, she said, "told me at the time ... usually these things die out. We'll look into it.'"
For a few days, it seemed like the matter had petered out.
Howell said she was told that both boys denied any sexual contact with her to the principal. Other rumors that followed, including that the accuser's father drove his son to her apartment for sex, was also disproved, Howell said.
But on Dec. 15 when she was suspended, Howell said the principal told her that the accuser, who had been threatened with possible expulsion for lying about such a serious allegation, had recanted his denial and was accusing Howell of having sex with him.
Howell said she left school in disbelief and hired a lawyer.
Howell said that while she knew who her accuser was and had interacted with him as part of the football-cheerleading team dynamic, she never once laid a hand on him or any other student, nor had she even been alone with him in school or otherwise.