To the defense, the teacher's 14-year-old sex partners were "young ladies."

To the prosecution, they were "little girls."

To the defense, the incidents at Ronald H. Brown Middle School were "indiscretions."

To the prosecution, they were "horrible crimes."

Calvin S. Kinney, a gym teacher at the D.C. school until his arrest in April, violated a professional code, broke the law and must spend the next 12 to 36 years in prison, D.C. Superior Court Judge Patricia A. Wynn decided yesterday.

"Mr. Kinney somehow does not understand his role as protector of these children," asserted Wynn, who said it is irrelevant who initiated the sexual encounters. "It's Mr. Kinney's responsibility as an adult and as a 45-year-old man to protect them from themselves."

Kinney is one of four D.C. school employees or volunteers convicted this year in Superior Court of having sex with students younger than 16, the age of consent. The girls in three cases told authorities they willingly had sex with the adult men.

Jailed since pleading guilty to two felony sex counts in July, Kinney told Wynn his conduct was "inexcusable." He said one of the girls offered sex to him after the teacher discovered her in a sexual encounter with another student.

"I openly admit having sex with these young ladies," Kinney, now 47, told Wynn. "But I never preyed on them. The truth is the both of them did come to me. I never went to them."

One of the girls in Kinney's case gave birth to Kinney's child in July 1998 at age 15. The girl, who communicates at a second-grade level, according to prosecutors, had sex with Kinney after he ordered her into his office bathroom and told her to lie on the floor.

Kinney's office was located in the girls' locker room.

The second girl was a Brown Middle School graduate who had returned from high school to earn community service credits. She developed a crush on Kinney and believed Kinney felt the same way about her, prosecutor Ann M. Carroll said.

"He still blames these kids for having sex with him," reported Carroll, who said the girls were unable to make good decisions. "There was no force. There was his use of his authority and these kids' affections."

Defense attorney W. Eric Cloud asked Wynn to be lenient. He argued that Kinney is a college graduate and Navy veteran who was loved and admired by Brown students who visited him in jail. He called the incidents "an aberration."

"He's been a productive citizen for 30 some-odd years," said Cloud, who noted that the Forestville man has a Maryland conviction for resisting arrest. "But for these two indiscretions, he would still be a productive citizen."

Wynn ordered Kinney to serve eight to 24 years for first-degree child sexual abuse and four to 12 years for attempted child sexual abuse. The sentences will run consecutively.

"Your honor," asked Cloud when Wynn had finished, "could the court reconsider and make the terms concurrent?"

"No sir," answered Wynn.

Cloud sat down. A marshal led Kinney away.