Lauren Cooper is in prison for having inappropriate relationships with four of her students, and her husband Raphael Cooper is standing by her. Courtesy Raphael Cooper
Lauren Cooper was an English teacher at Wyoming Valley West High School in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. She seemed to have it all.
But instead of a classroom, the 32-year-old is currently serving 9 to 23 months at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for having inappropriate relationships with four of her students.
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“I’m glad I got caught,” she told ABC News’ “20/20” exclusively. “I went against what I know is right, and I did wrong. And there is no way to explain that away. I have no defense of myself. I was wrong, plain and simple.”
Her forbidden affairs began after she opened a dance studio in her town with her husband, Raphael Cooper. The new side-business was time-consuming and took a toll on their marriage.
“It turned into more of a business relationship than a marriage,” she said. “With us deteriorating in our marriage and having less and less of a relationship, I didn’t feel attractive. I didn’t feel wanted.”
“It was falling apart. It was coming apart. I wasn’t realizing it, possibly,” Raphael Cooper, 32, told “20/20.” “She was obviously not feeling loved.”
Needing to feel desired and accepted, Mrs. Cooper said she sought attention from an inappropriate source: an 18-year-old high school senior boy at her school.
Mrs. Cooper said the 18-year-old sent her text messages after getting her cell phone number from his sister in December 2013. Many students had her contact information because she directed several school plays, she said.
“He was very, very … convincing, in terms of making me feel good about myself,” Mrs. Cooper recalled.
But the flirty chatter quickly turned physical, and she met the student in her car around the corner from his house and drove off. According to the senior, the couple had numerous sexual encounters.
“It wasn’t so much that I even needed a physical connection. It was just being able to interact with someone who made me feel valued and worthwhile,” Mrs. Cooper said. “As crazy as this might sound to some people, he’s very intelligent. I could have real conversations with him about real life issues.”
The six-day romance came to a halt when the boy’s parents found sexually explicit messages between the student and the teacher and immediate went to the high school.
“I wasn’t worried about him saying something. I was worried because I knew that it was wrong,” Cooper said. “I trusted him.”
Mrs. Cooper was arrested on Dec. 19, 2013 for her relationship with the senior and charged with having institutional sex. In Pennsylvania, it’s illegal for a teacher to have sex with her student regardless of age or consent.