AUBURN — The former math teacher stared fixedly at his shackled hands, so the teenage girl directed her words at his hunched shoulders.

“You were my mentor,” she said. “You groomed me by using my vulnerability and past traumas to turn me into an object of pleasure. This is why we are here today.”

Derek Michael Boyce, 37, did not look up. The girl had once been his student at Pine Tree Academy in Freeport, a private Seventh-day Adventist school. She faced him Wednesday in Androscoggin County Superior Court to see him plead guilty to 10 felonies for drawing her into a sexual relationship when she was 15 years old. When the judge asked if she agreed with the sentence – eight years in prison and five years of probation – she said yes.

Boyce was arrested in September when the girl’s mother caught him at her Lisbon home with her daughter and called police, according to an affidavit filed in court. Boyce admitted to his relationship with the girl during his initial interview with police. Assistant District Attorney Lisa Bogue told the court Wednesday that Boyce was communicating with the girl outside of school through social media apps, and he first had sexual contact with her in July.

The school placed Boyce on leave and banned him from the school campus when he was arrested, and fired him soon after. A grand jury indicted Boyce in December on more than two dozen charges. His guilty plea included charges for gross sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact and sexual abuse of a minor.

The Portland Press Herald does not identify victims of sexual crimes without their consent.

VICTIM: ‘HE DID NOT BREAK ME’

The girl and her mother both spoke during the emotional hearing. The mother tearfully told the court that her daughter attempted suicide when the school first warned Boyce about his inappropriate closeness and social media contact with students. She said she did not know that Boyce then showed her daughter encrypted apps where they could send secret messages to each other. She described the shock and trauma of discovering Boyce at her home, and she blamed the former teacher for his decisions.

“My daughter shared that Mr. Boyce told her that he had had feelings for other students in the past,” the girl’s mother said. “My only consolation is that he has been exposed and will not prey on anyone else’s child in the future.”

The girl’s voice cracked at times during her statement, but she continued to read the typewritten words on the pages in her hand.

She described how Boyce shared his social media information with students against school policy and acted as a counselor because Pine Tree Academy did not have one. She said Boyce told her the church and her family would disown her if they ever found out about their relationship. She told the court that she has been attacked and ostracized by her former friends and that she is now afraid of adult men.

“I have been abused and mistreated by a person who claimed he wanted to adopt me,” she said. “However, I am still standing here today, ready to move on. He did not break me. He is not worth giving up my life again.”

She recalled the day her mother discovered them together, how she called her teacher frantically after he left her house, blaming herself for what happened before she understood how he manipulated her.

“And to answer your question, Derek, that you asked me that terrible Friday afternoon, no, I will not be waiting for you when your punishment is over,” the girl said in a strong voice. “You are alone by choice.”

DEFENDANT APOLOGIZES

When she took her seat, a tall man in a three-piece suit stood to address the court. He identified himself as Donald Michael Boyce, the defendant’s father.

“Our grief cannot be measured, and there is nothing that can be said that can change what has occurred,” he said. “Nevertheless, we stand with Derek. We will stand with him and help him to find a way through this to be a better person in any way we can.”

Boyce listened in silence from his seat next to defense attorney Heidi Pushard. He has been in custody at the Androscoggin County Jail since his arrest, and he wore a blue-gray uniform for his court appearance. At the start of the hearing, he had removed a single sheet of notebook paper from his chest pocket and placed it on the table in front of him. When it came time for his statement, he read out loud the handwritten apology.

“I am very sorry for the trauma and harm I have caused the victim and her family,” Boyce said. “I am sorry for the damage I have done to my church, my former employer and my family. In jail, I have repented of all my sins and fully given my life to Jesus, my personal savior. With God’s help, with my parents’ support and help I intend to seek, these events will never happen again.”

The Northern New England Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, which owns and operates the school, has declined to answer questions about any action it took to prevent the relationship from developing. Conference spokesman Scott Christiansen made a brief statement on the case Wednesday afternoon.

“With the sentencing of Derek Boyce, the Northern New England Conference remains saddened by the impacts of the tragic events and at the same time determined to continue to protect and nurture its students and staff and continue to offer a Christian education of the highest quality,” Christiansen said.

SCHOOL UPDATES SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY

Christiansen confirmed that the school does not have a guidance counselor on staff, but said administrators are available to counsel students when needed. He also said the school has updated its social media policy, which in the past allowed for minimal contact between students and teachers.

“Now there is none, period,” he said. “The platforms can be misused.”

According to the state Department of Education, Boyce was not a certified teacher with the state, but private schools are not required to hire certified teachers. Christiansen said Pine Tree Academy teachers are accredited by the Adventist Accrediting Association and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Boyce previously worked at a Seventh-day Adventist high school in Maryland, where school officials said he left on good terms. Christiansen said there has been no new evidence of other inappropriate relationships with students.

Boyce had no prior criminal history in Maine, according to the State Bureau of Identification. As part of his sentence, he will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. When he left the courtroom, he glanced over his shoulder toward his family for the first time, then quickly turned his face back to the guard who was leading him away.

Megan Gray can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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