Pennsylvania Teacher in Prison for Student Affairs, Husband Standing By Her

Raphael Cooper supports his wife, who's in prison for the inappropriate conduct.

ByJoseph Diaz and Alexa Valiente
October 10, 2014, 5:53 PM

— -- Lauren Cooper was an English teacher at Wyoming Valley West High School in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. She seemed to have it all.

But instead of a classroom, the 32-year-old is currently serving 9 to 23 months at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for having inappropriate relationships with four of her students.

“I’m glad I got caught,” she told ABC News’ “20/20” exclusively. “I went against what I know is right, and I did wrong. And there is no way to explain that away. I have no defense of myself. I was wrong, plain and simple.”

Her forbidden affairs began after she opened a dance studio in her town with her husband, Raphael Cooper. The new side-business was time-consuming and took a toll on their marriage.

“It turned into more of a business relationship than a marriage,” she said. “With us deteriorating in our marriage and having less and less of a relationship, I didn’t feel attractive. I didn’t feel wanted.”

“It was falling apart. It was coming apart. I wasn’t realizing it, possibly,” Raphael Cooper, 32, told “20/20.” “She was obviously not feeling loved.”

Needing to feel desired and accepted, Mrs. Cooper said she sought attention from an inappropriate source: an 18-year-old high school senior boy at her school.

Mrs. Cooper said the 18-year-old sent her text messages after getting her cell phone number from his sister in December 2013. Many students had her contact information because she directed several school plays, she said.

"He was very, very ... convincing, in terms of making me feel good about myself,” Mrs. Cooper recalled.

But the flirty chatter quickly turned physical, and she met the student in her car around the corner from his house and drove off. According to the senior, the couple had numerous sexual encounters.

“It wasn’t so much that I even needed a physical connection. It was just being able to interact with someone who made me feel valued and worthwhile,” Mrs. Cooper said. “As crazy as this might sound to some people, he’s very intelligent. I could have real conversations with him about real life issues.”

The six-day romance came to a halt when the boy’s parents found sexually explicit messages between the student and the teacher and immediate went to the high school.

“I wasn’t worried about him saying something. I was worried because I knew that it was wrong,” Cooper said. “I trusted him.”

Mrs. Cooper was arrested on Dec. 19, 2013 for her relationship with the senior and charged with having institutional sex. In Pennsylvania, it's illegal for a teacher to have sex with her student regardless of age or consent.

The following month, on Jan. 9, 2014, she was arrested again after a police investigation uncovered another accusation - that she allegedly had oral sex with another student, a 17-year-old boy.

Police say that the boy claims Mrs. Cooper was inappropriate inside the school as well, openly flirting and sexting with him. She reportedly whispered to him in the hallway, “All the candy you need is right here."

The boy told police that when he tried to end the relationship, she texted him saying, “What 17-year-old doesn’t want to have sex with his 31-year-old teacher.” ABC News was not given access to this text.

“My impression is that, from talking to the victims and [Mrs.] Cooper, was that she was strictly just looking for affection,” Luzerne County Detective Chaz Balogh told “20/20.” “She was very aggressive, very straight to the point.”

After the second arrest, Mrs. Cooper spent several days in jail before posting bond. “I thought my life was over, and I did make an attempt on my life,” she said.

“I just thought, ‘What is going on? What’s going on here? What is this? What are the implications going to be?’” Raphael Cooper said.

Three weeks later on Jan. 28, 2014, Mrs. Cooper was arrested a third time after two more underage male students came forward alleging that the teacher had previously had inappropriate contact with them. She was charged with corrupting minors, a misdemeanor, for reportedly showing a 16-year-old the tattoo on her breast and kissing and petting with a 17-year-old.

“I think what happened was the initial boy was getting a lot of attention, positive attention from his buddies at school. And some other people wanted to be cool as well and get the metaphorical high fives in the hallways. And so I think it was like a bandwagoning type thing,” said Mrs. Cooper.

But according to authorities, some of her other actions where even more brazen.

“She not only was victimizing the students,” said Balogh. “She [was] using other students to hook her up with others she finds attractive.”

Her attorney Joseph D'Andrea says his client is not a predator or a deviant.

"Lauren is a really, really troubled emotional person who had an insatiable need for attention," D'Andrea told "20/20."

It's a problem that Cooper said she is working out with her husband. In the months since her arrest, the couple has turned to church and a spiritual rebirth, which they say is helping them heal and rebuild their relationship.

“I don't want anybody else. I don't want to go anywhere else. I’ve had too many years built up with her, and too many good memories and too many ahead,” Raphael Cooper said. “I'm staying.”

“There are no words for it. I mean, he’s absolutely remarkable. I wish we never got away from the marriage part of our relationship,” Cooper said.

On Sept. 25, Cooper pleaded guilty to two counts of felony sexual contact and two counts of corrupting minors. Once she is released for jail, Cooper will have to register as a sex offender for 25 years. The state also revoked her teaching license for life.

“There are days that I hate myself, but I'm learning to forgive myself. I'm learning to forgive others,” said Mrs. Cooper.

“I did do wrong, but I’m not a monster. I am human, and like every other human, I made mistakes."

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