SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A 34-year-old special-education high school teacher, who is accused of having a sexual relationship with one of her 17-year-old former students, pleaded not guilty Monday to felony charges.
Kelly McKenzy Watson -- who is free on $45,000 bail -- faces up to three years in state prison if convicted of one count each of unlawful sexual intercourse and oral copulation with a minor.
Judge David Szumowski ordered Watson to stay away from the alleged victim in the case, but the specific allegations against her were not discussed in open court.
Watson's attorney, Paul Wallin, told reporters his client is not guilty of any crime.
"Kelly Watson is the only victim in this case," Wallin said. "The young man involved in this case -- for any who will speak to him -- will tell you that no sexual wrongdoing occurred between Kelly and the young man."
The mother of the alleged victim has asked that the charges be dropped, Wallin told reporters.
The defense attorney said Watson has been a highly respected special-education teacher for the past seven years.
"In all that time, she has provided the highest level of excellence to her students, and she has never been accused of any sort of inappropriate conduct in the entire time she's been teaching," Wallin said.
The fact that Watson's name has been broadcast in the media has already caused "irreparable injury," the attorney said.
"When someone is accused of sexual misconduct with a student these days in 2012, it is impossible to not have your reputation destroyed," Wallin said. "Specifically, when a teacher is accused of a sex offense, the media goes nuts because they know they can get high ratings. Unfortunately, when the charges are dropped, the media is not often around."
Watson was arrested Aug. 9 on suspicion of sexually assaulting the boy, who she met when he was a student in her class at the New Haven residential school in Vista, said Lt. Anastasia Smith of the San Diego Police Department.
The lieutenant said Watson was the boy's teacher at New Haven for several semesters from September 2010 until August 2011. New Haven works with troubled and at-risk teens.
San Diego police sex crimes detectives received a tip on July 30 about alleged inappropriate conduct between Watson and the former student and later determined she had an inappropriate dating relationship with the boy several months ago, Smith said.
Watson, who had since begun teaching at Oceanside High School, will be back in court Sept. 26 for a readiness conference and Nov. 7 for a preliminary hearing.
She was placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the case.