North Branford Teacher Pleads Not Guilty to Harassing Teen on Social Media Site

A third-grade teacher at a North Branford school who is accused of harassing a teenager online whose boyfriend mistreated her daughter has pleaded not guilty.

Police said Stephanie DeFrance, 43, of Middletown, sent at least 65 anonymous harassing messages between January and March to a girl and claimed her boyfriend had been cheating on her.

She used Ask.FM, a site that allows people to anonymously ask questions of other users, according to the application for an arrest warrant.

DeFrance's daughter and the victim were friends and both had a relationship with the same boy, but the boy chose the victim and ended things with the daughter, according to an application for an arrest warrant filed by Middletown police.

One message referred to the victim as a "body count," meaning that she was just one more person for the boy to be sexually active with, according to the arrest warrant application.  

Middletown police arrested DeFrance last week after an investigation that began in March. DeFrance is listed as a third-grade teacher on the Totoket Valley Elementary School website.

In March, DeFrance told the victim that she knew who was sending the harassing messages, but originally blamed it on teenaged girl, police said.

The victim stopped eating and was afraid to go to school, according to the arrest warrant application. She feared a stalker could see her because some of the messages talked about her being at home when she was there.

After the victim's mother told DeFrance she was going to police for help in the matter, DeFrance admitted she was the who had sent the messages, according to police.

DeFrance begged the victim and her family not to go to police because she was afraid she would jeopardize her job and her family if the information became public, the victim's mother told police.

She turned herself in to police last week on charges of second-degree harassment and was released on a $2,500 bond.

Shea appeared in court on Thursday and entered a not guilty plea.

Police said the harassment was non-threatening.

NBC Connecticut obtained a letter the principal of Totoket Valley Elementary School sent home to parents on Wednesday, which says an investigation is underway.

"I am writing to inform you that a TVES faculty member has been charged with a class 2 misdemeanor," the letter from Kris Linsday stated. "The misdemeanor occurred outside of the school district and town of North Branford. No former or current North Branford students were involved, and their safety was not compromised at any point."

The principal did not say if DeFrance is still working at the school.

NBC Connecticut reached out to DeFrance on Wednesday evening for a comment, but did not receive an answer. Court records online do not list an attorney for DeFrance.

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