An 18-year-old Florida student's senior year has become a nightmare — all because she was in a same-sex relationship with a 15-year-old freshman.
Kaitlyn Hunt was arrested Feb. 16 for having a physical relationship with a younger student. Her girlfriend's parents pressed criminal charges against Kaitlyn, specifically sexual battery of a minor.
Instead of preparing for graduation, Kaitlyn was led away from her home in handcuffs and expelled from her high school in Indian River County, on Florida's east coast. Under state law, she could face up to 15 years in prison and must register as a sex offender.
Her case has sparked an outpouring of sympathy after her parents started a Facebook campaign last week in an attempt to get the state attorney's office to drop the charges.
Kaitlyn's mother, Kelley Hunt-Smith, says the other parents are seeking to destroy Kaitlyn's life because they can't accept that their own child might be gay.
"They feel like she 'made' their daughter gay,'' Hunt-Smith wrote on the Free Kate Facebook page. "They see being gay as wrong and they blame my daughter. Of course, I see it 100% differently. I don't see or label these girls as gay. They are teenagers in high school experimenting with their sexuality — with mutual consent. And even if their daughter is gay, who cares? She is still their daughter."
Kaitlyn's uncle, Andrew Gay, told the New York Daily News that the girls were in the same social circle at Sebastian River High School and played together on the basketball team. "I'm not sure age ever entered into either of their minds," Gay said. But when the coach found out about their relationship, Kaitlyn was thrown off the team; the coach said he feared the relationship would bring unwanted "drama."
The other girl's parents were notified of the relationship. They then contacted the police, and a phone call was recorded between the two girls in which they discussed their relationship, Gay said.
Kaitlyn was charged with two counts of felony lewd and lascivious battery on a child ages 12 to 16. Under Florida law, no one younger than 16 can consent to sexual activity.
Andrew Gay says the family disagrees with the state law, and does not believe Kaitlyn is being prosecuted because it was a same-sex relationship. "Many 18-year-old men have also been unjustly prosecuted for dating underage girls in their high schools,'' he said. "We are arguing that it is unfair to expect high school students in the same school not to fraternize. It certainly shouldn't be grounds for criminal prosecution.''
Kaitlyn has been offered a plea deal to avoid a trial: two years of house arrest and one year of probation. Her parents want the case dropped entirely; if Kaitlyn accepts the plea deal, it will stay on her permanent adult record, limiting her career choices.
According to the arrest affidavit, the teens had a sexual relationship on multiple occasions, including on the grounds of the high school.
Hunt-Smith says the relationship was consensual and she questions why the parents of Kaitlyn's girlfriend chose to press charges. "You get with me, and say, 'Hey, as a mom, this is going on and I don't like this, let's talk about this,' " she said. "I would have sat down with our children, and I would have nipped it in the bud."
The younger girl's parents petitioned to have Kaitlyn expelled from school. At first they were unsuccessful, but eventually Kaitlyn was sent to an alternative school.
''After two separate judges ruled that Kaitlyn could finish her senior year with her peers, her girlfriend's parents appealed to the Indian River County School Board, who expelled Kaitlyn,'' Hunt-Smith wrote on Facebook.
Kaitlyn's parents are urging the public to sign a petition they will present to the Indian River State Attorney's Office. By Monday, their Facebook page had more than 14,000 members, and a change.org petition had more than 50,000 signatures.
Reporting: Examiner.com, New York Daily News, NewsNet5.com, WFLX.com, Inquisitr.com, DailyMail.com.