A Franklin County high school teacher whose home last year was the scene of a party at which teens drank to excess did not commit a criminal offense, a judge has ruled.
Renae Stone Lambert, 45, was found not guilty of misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of minor at a hearing Tuesday in Franklin County Circuit Court.
Lambert, who has taught Spanish in Franklin County for the past 22 years, was charged over the summer after reports emerged of teen drinking at a party her daughter threw at the family’s Summit Drive home.
It’s estimated that 20 to 40 young people were present, with some of the guests consuming beer and liquor.
At a trial in November, five teenagers testified that while the beverages were hidden in party cups or consumed in other rooms or in closets, over the course of the evening the containers and the drunken behavior became more open.
It was also established at the trial that Lambert was present and was supervising the get-together. She did not supply any of the libations, but she also didn’t notice that alcohol was being consumed until hours later when she found two girls passed out in a downstairs bedroom. One of those girls later testified she took four or five shots of tequila in about 20 minutes that night.
Additionally, the two girls had made arrangements to sleep over at Lambert’s home that night, and Lambert opted not to tell their parents what happened.
At the close of the trial, Judge Clyde Perdue took her case under advisement for 60 days. He delivered his decision Tuesday, saying he did not feel the statute under which she was charged matched the wrongdoing.
“These kids hid the alcohol from Mrs. Lambert, and when she discovered it, it’s the same time she discovered the two girls were intoxicated,” Perdue said in court. “She immediately took action.”
“She’s not charged with not calling up the parents and telling them what’s going on. She’s charged with that she encouraged their act.
“I just don’t see her contributing to or encouraging this act ... or causing this act,” Perdue said, but he later offered that she had “used poor judgment that night.”
Lambert testified on her own behalf for just under a half-hour, saying she never would have willfully allowed the teens to drink.
“I served lemonade and sodas and pizza rolls,” she said. “Homemade cookies, buffalo dip and fresh-cut strawberries.
“That was the kind of thing I had in mind when the kids are over.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney A.J. Dudley questioned Lambert about her decision not to call the girls’ parents, as well as her day-after warning to the pair that she would come forward if she ever found out about them drinking again.
“It looks like you told these kids you weren’t going to be telling anybody because there was an implied trade,” Dudley said to her. “They weren’t going to be telling on you, either.”
“No, sir. It was not about me,” she said. “They were the ones who had done wrong and I wanted them to learn from their mistake.”
Lambert also apologized directly to the mother of one of the girls, the only witness Tuesday who testified against her.
“That is the one thing I would change. I would call you,” Lambert told her. “I am so sorry I didn’t call you, because I would’ve wanted to have been called.”
In the wake of her indictment last year, Lambert remained a full-time employee with the school system but was reassigned to its print shop. She said that change had been very hard.
“I would love to get back to my teaching job. I miss it very much,” she said in court.
In an email Tuesday evening, Franklin County School Superintendent Mark Church wrote that he was “happy for Mrs. Lambert and her family with this decision” and that “there has been no action, at this point, that causes us to change her employment.” Citing personnel issues, he declined to comment further.
Details have also emerged that a male teenager who was at the party was charged with a crime over behavior alleged to have occurred that night.
Dudley has said the boy’s case was heard in Franklin County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. In November he said the teen was scheduled for sentencing, but he has declined to update the status of the case or to specify what the charge was.