‘Snake teacher’ sentenced to life for sex with student in class

A South Carolina high school teacher and teacher’s aide known as the “snake teacher” was given a life sentence on a sexual battery charge on Tuesday and has been ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

State Bureau of Investigation agents said they found several sexual encounters between 63-year-old Michael Kern and the then-16-year-old girl in his class at Byrnes High School.

Kern was found guilty on March 24 after two days of deliberations.

The former football coach and teacher’s aide drew comparisons to the character Mr. Toad in the 1988 children’s book “Pinocchio.”

“It has not only destroyed my life, it has ruined the lives of the seven children I love who no longer get to experience a father. There is no reason that someone could do this to a 16-year-old,” the victim said during the March hearing.

At the sentencing on Tuesday, the victim called Kern a monster. She said she tried to convince herself he would change, and said she took him back to her apartment on several occasions and had sex with him.

“Every single time I saw this man that I loved, and more importantly that was my best friend, I felt his hands on me and I didn’t know what he wanted,” she said, crying through her statement.

Police said the sexual abuse in separate incidents began in 2016.

A Byrnes High School teacher’s aide who admitted having sex with a 16-year-old student in his class was convicted of sexual battery on Friday, but a judge imposed a life sentence on the conviction Tuesday.

Pee Dee District Judge Mark Nash handed down Kern’s sentence in reference to the South Carolina Department of Corrections, which recommends life sentences for those guilty of first-degree felony sexual battery.

Gaffney City Police Officer Gwen Crews testified at Kern’s trial that she responded to the girl’s home on Oct. 26, 2016, and found her sitting on the floor and “being very upset.” She said the girl’s room door was open and her bedroom closet door unlocked.

The girl told Crews the sexual assaults occurred several times in Kern’s class, Crews said.

Investigators, who found evidence of sexual encounters between the teacher and the girl in his classroom and elsewhere, were seeking to keep the order sealed.

Under state law, sex offenders are required to register with local law enforcement. Kern will have to check in with law enforcement every 90 days.

If he fails to register, he could face a $1,000 fine, up to a year in jail or both.

Three charges of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor were dropped before Kern’s trial began in February.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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