KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A former East Tennessee school teacher entered a guilty plea in a sexual battery by an authority figure case filed against her.
Gretchen Elliot, 35, was charged with 13 counts in relation to having sexual relations with a minor.
She committed these crimes between March and April 2016, when she worked as a school teacher for Tennessee Children’s Home.
Elliott pleaded guilty to seven of the 13 charges on May 17, from sexual battery by an authority figure to statutory rape by an authority figure.
“Gretchen Elliott takes full responsibility for her actions and deeply regrets what happened,” Scott Frith, Elliott’s defense attorney, said by phone.
The Department of Children’s Services confirmed that their Special Investigations Unit launched an investigation into the case in July 2016.
Brian King, president of Tennessee Children’s Home, sent a statement to families following the incident reading:
The Tennessee Children’s Home has served orphaned and disadvantaged children in Tennessee for more than 100 years. With four campuses and three schools, we serve children in all three Grand Divisions of Tennessee. We provide for the physical, social, emotional, spiritual, and educational needs of children and youth in a Christian environment. We have served more than 20,000 children in Tennessee, and we continue to serve hundreds more every year.
We want to assure everyone that we take the utmost care with the safety of the children in our care. We have a rigorous hiring process that includes multiple levels of checks and verifications to make sure that our employees pose no threats to children. After hiring, we continually monitor and train to make sure our children receive the best care and are protected from harm.
The laws and regulations regarding children prohibit us from discussing any particular case or child in our care. However, whenever we learn of a problem with a member of our staff or our residents, we take immediate action to make sure our children are safe and that any mistakes are quickly corrected. When state agencies or law enforcement are involved, we cooperate fully and thoroughly.
We are not always able to prevent bad things from happening, but we have always and will always hold ourselves to the highest standards for providing a safe and nurturing experience for the children in our care.
The case went directly to a Knox County Grand Jury in September 2016. Shortly after, Elliott picked up two separate shoplifting charges and even tested positive for drugs. Those charges have since been dropped, per last week’s plea deal.
Elliott is currently booked in the Knox County Detention Center, where she is participating in a drug treatment program, according to her lawyer.
She previously worked as a school teacher for Rocky Hill Elementary until 2015. Knox County Schools did not renew her contract.
Elliott’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 26. She faces a possible sentence of up to 10 years and will be placed on the sex offender registry.