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June 1, 2020

5/22/2020 7:27:00 AM
Rhinelander middle school teacher charged with child sexual assault tenders resignation
Heather Schaefer and Jamie Taylor
of the River News

A former Rhinelander middle school teacher is facing two counts of child sexual assault in connection with allegations she had repeated sexual contact with a juvenile in her care.

According to a criminal complaint filed Monday in Oneida County Circuit Court, Stephanie M. Pudlowski, 38, was charged after her spouse went to police with suspicions that his wife was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a young person staying in their residence.

The alleged victim is not related to Pudlowski but is described in the complaint as a former student.

According to the complaint, Pudlowski's spouse went to police after placing a surveillance camera in the common areas of the residence and observing "embraces and other overtly inappropriate behavior" between his wife and the juvenile. The complaint also states that the spouse placed an audio recorder in the juvenile's bedroom and the device captured two occasions where it appeared sexual activity was taking place between the defendant and the juvenile.

Before her court appearance Monday afternoon, the School District of Rhinelander announced that Pudlowski, an English Language Arts teacher at James Williams Middle School, had been arrested and had tendered her resignation effective immediately.

The district also sent out this message to parents of middle school students:

"Today, I have some unfortunate and sad news to share. On Friday May 15, 2020 one of our teachers, Stephanie Pudlowski, was taken into custody on sexual misconduct of a minor in her care. None of our middle school students were involved. Ms. Pudlowski has submitted her letter of resignation to the school district, effective immediately. Mrs. Higgins, our other English Language Arts teacher, will be corresponding with all 8th grade students in assigning, collecting and grading their work via google classroom as usual. There will be no interruption in your 8th grade child's learning. An investigation into the charges against Ms. Pudlowski are ongoing. All questions are to be directed to the Oneida County Sheriff's Department."

Pudlowski was interviewed by investigators on May 15 after a search warrant was executed at her home, the complaint states.

According to the complaint, an emotional Pudlowski eventually admitted to performing oral sex on the juvenile on one occasion as well as several other instances of sexual touching.

She claimed she loves the juvenile, who has resided in her home for a few years, but not in an intimate way and has no intention of pursuing a romantic relationship with the individual when this person is no longer a minor. She "could not give a reason as to why the sexual contact occurred" and insisted that she wasn't "a bad person".

"I don't want my choices to have consequences for my family," she told investigators at one point, according to the complaint.

Pudlowski made her an initial appearance in Oneida County Circuit Court Monday afternoon at which time her bail was increased from a $2,000 signature bond to a $5,000 signature bond. As conditions of bond, she is prohibited from having any contact with the alleged victim and must following all directives set forth by the Department of Social Services. An adjourned initial appearance was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. June 15.

If convicted of both charges, she faces a maximum of 40 years in prison.

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