'Teacher of the year' accused of harassing teen - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

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'Teacher of the year' accused of harassing teen through social media

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Stephanie DeFrance was accused of harassing a teen through a social media website. (Facebook photo) Stephanie DeFrance was accused of harassing a teen through a social media website. (Facebook photo)

A woman went from being teacher of the year to a suspect in a shocking crime.

Stephanie Defrance, a grade school teacher at Totoket Valley Elementary School in North Branford, is accused of using the social medial website Ask.fm to harass and discourage a 15-year-old girl from dating her daughter's boyfriend.

"It doesn't sound like her, I'm surprised," said Denise Regino, a parent.

The harassment got so bad that the victim's mother told Middletown police that the teen missed school.

"She's supposed to set an example for these kids," said Ray Gilbert, a neighbor. "This is how she does it? That's crazy."

Defrance allegedly told investigators that she used the site to anonymously send 65 messages over a three-month period. One of the messages referred to the victim as "body count," meaning that she was just another girl with which the ex-boyfriend was sexually active.

"I can't imagine her doing that," Regino said.

The victim's mother told police that while the two were at East Hartford High School for a basketball game, she asked Defrance what she knew about the harassing messages.

Defrance allegedly fessed up about sending them and that's when police said it turned violent.

According to the victim's mother, "Stephanie tried to push her down the stairs away from the school."

She also told officers that "Stephanie begged her not to tell anyone."

The altercation prompted Middletown police to investigate. That's when Defrance admitted to police that she sent the messages.

In an affidavit, she told police she "became angry because she felt that (the ex-boyfriend) had used her daughter in a sexual way."

"When I was a kid, I went home, locked the door, the bully couldn't get to me," said Scott Driscoll of Internet Safety Concept. "Now, there's no escape for the target."

Driscoll said there's only one way to prevent the type of social media harassment Defrance was accused of doing.

"My advice to the kids is stay off of this one," he said.

North Branford's superintendent told Eyewitness News that the town was looking into the allegations.

Defrance was due in court next week, according to police.

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