After a teacher became the foster mother of her former student, her husband secretly installed cameras, and it wasn’t long before the trusted educator was arrested.
Stephanie Pudlowski was a 38-year-old, trusted Rhinelander, Wisconsin teacher, who became the foster mother of a 16-year-old boy. She had met the teenager while teaching at James Williams Middle School several years before, but after taking the boy in as their son, Pudlowski’s husband began feeling like something was off about his wife’s relationship with her former student.
Her husband initially became suspicious of an inappropriate relationship between Stephanie Pudlowski and their foster son after placing surveillance cameras in the common areas of their home and observing what he thought was inappropriate behavior. If this was what he saw going on in the common areas of his home, what was going on behind closed doors? He was going to find out.
Stephanie Pudlowski and the child were often alone in the boy’s room with the door shut. Pudlowski said she and the teen closed the door to the boy’s bedroom because he was “a loud gamer,” but her husband suspected something more was going on. He later admitted to authorities that he secretly recorded in the boy’s bedroom in the basement, according to the criminal complaint.
With his suspicions growing, Pudlowski’s husband had secretly installed an audio recorder in the basement of their Oneida County home in addition to the cameras. When the surveillance equipment confirmed what he suspected was going on between his wife and their foster son, he went to the police.
Pudlowski’s husband explained to authorities that he had installed the cameras because he was suspicious of his wife’s relationship with their foster son and said he placed an audio recorder in the basement, where the foster child’s bedroom is located since his wife and the boy were often alone in there together with the door shut. What he captured on camera led to his wife, a then-Rhinelander middle school teacher, being arrested.
Stephanie Pudlowski was hit with multiple charges after police say the footage captured by the hidden cameras shows the teacher having a sexual relationship with her 16-year-old foster son after her husband secretly recorded their trysts. According to the police, the audio and video, taken in the home Pudlowski shared with her husband and foster son, showed she had a sexual relationship with the boy.
In addition, the sexual activity that the cameras captured had been occurring between the woman and her foster son for months, and it was happening as often as a couple of times a week, police said. Faced with the video evidence her husband captured, Stephanie Pudlowski admitted to having sex with the teen, which is a child-sex crime, and was taken into custody.
In an interview with officers, Pudlowski said the child never asked her for the sexual contact. She did not answer, however, when asked if the child ever said no. She also claimed that she did not always close the boy’s basement bedroom door for sexual purposes, alleging it was often because he was a “loud gamer.”
Stephanie Pudlowski resigned from her position as an eighth-grade English language arts teacher at Rhinelander middle school, the district said, and her husband filed for divorce, Daily Mail reported. According to WJFW, Pudlowski was charged with sexual assault of a child placed in substitute care, sexual intercourse with a child age 16 or older, and causing mental harm to a child. Rather than being held behind bars, however, she was released on a $5,000 signature bond, WAOW reported.
Although Pudlowski is said to have met the teenager while teaching at a local school, police say no sexual contact occurred on district property. That provides little reassurance, however, for most parents who realize that crimes such as this one are a growing trend in our society and they often aren’t punished with the severity they deserve.
Stephanie Pudlowshi was a trusted role model and adult in a position of authority, who preyed on a child to fulfill her own sexual desires with complete disregard for her victim’s innocence and her own family. Sadly, predators like her aren’t uncommon. Female teachers — who are often married, mothers, and in their 30’s — are engaging in inappropriate relationships with their minor students at an alarming rate. Yet, they often receive a slap on the wrist for their crimes.
Although the boy may have been a willing participant, the fact remains he was a child, and Pudlowski was not only his teacher but also his mother figure. She abused her position of authority and the trust bestowed upon her as an educator and guardian. It’s time crimes such as these are punished to the degree they would be if the sexes were reversed. These women are opportunistic abusers who victimize children, and they should be treated as the predators they are.