by Remy Hogan
photography by Molly Garry
Stacey Haug, University of La Verne adjunct professor of criminology, has been called many things throughout her life: Genuine. Inspiring. Resilient. She has also been given many labels: Victim. Juvenile delinquent. Student. Wife. Mother. Professor. Advocate.
Stacey grew up with an older sister, Stephanie, and a younger brother, Steven. She loved her parents, Dana and Steven, dearly, but she was a daddy’s girl. Steven Bingley refurbished rundown homes and sold the properties for profit, and he dreamed up lofty new adventures and was every bit the entrepreneur. His personality was larger than life; however, he was known for having a vulgar sense of humor. And then, in April of 1985, he took his own life. Stacey was 6 years old.
In December of the year prior, Steven was arrested for five felony counts of molesting his three children. The accusations came from Dana’s mother and her mother’s sister, and they stemmed from disapproval of Steven’s sense of humor. The children were immediately removed from the home. Stacey still carries the guilt of what ensued after her father’s arrest. While in protective custody, she told authorities that her father had performed sexual acts with her and her siblings, including sodomy and oral copulation, because that was what she had heard. At 6 years old, Stacey felt helpless when faced with statements from authorities such as, “Your father is sick. Don’t you want to help him?” Stacey, wanting nothing more than to aid her father, confessed to the accusations even though she had no idea what they meant.
She became a witness in the trial, but there was not enough evidence to prove Steven’s guilt. The five counts of molestation were dropped, and he was charged with one misdemeanor count of lewd and immoral behavior because of his jokes. The family received several months of counseling before the children were allowed to return home. “We were able to fight it, but it took its toll. My father had three heart attacks by the time he was 32 years old.”
Steven could not bear the thought that his children had to endure the trial, and that they could never truly be a family again. A pill overdose took his life. “I have children now and to think of someone accusing me of not doing right by them, I think I would rather have my skin peeled off,” she says.
After the trial, Stacey’s 27-year-old mother learned that Stephanie was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. Between medical bills and the trial, Stacey’s single mother did all she could to provide for her family. They struggled mightily. “When you’re not quite sure where your next meal will come from…I don’t know if you’ve ever had peach cobbler without sugar, but it’s not very good,” Stacey now jokes, her ever present wit and sarcasm piercingly sharp. “I get my sarcasm and ‘overachiever-ness’ from my father. I love my father. That man made me feel special. Matter of fact, I named both my kids after him.”
As a 15 year old, she now grappled with the knowledge her statements hurt her father more than they helped him, and she was riddled with anger. “I walked around with a lot of guilt and self doubt.” She strived to be the best at everything in order to compensate for feeling as if she failed her family. Stacey was an athlete, she earned good grades, and she loved her siblings and her mother dearly. She even helped her mother take care of her sick sister. Life was difficult. “My mom was dating a guy who wasn’t very nice to her or us, and a family conflict led to the police being called. I was tagged and detained. That’s when Stacey became the juvenile delinquent.”
Despite her new delinquent status, brought on by her attempt to protect her family, she continued to work hard in school and to help her mother. But no matter what she did or how hard she worked, she always seemed to be back where she started: in court. “Once you get caught up in the juvenile justice system, if you don’t take the trash out, or you are miss-marked as absent in class even though you were there–all of that gets you back into court.”
Finally, a newly assigned juvenile probation officer decided that boot camp and juvenile hall were not what Stacey needed. So, at age 16, she was sent to live at David and Margaret Youth and Family Services in La Verne. “It became a blessing in disguise because my home situation was not stable enough.” Every weekday morning, she would make her morning trek to Bonita High School from David and Margaret, passing by the University of La Verne and wondering whether she would ever be able to obtain a college degree. She wanted that to be her future. “I would walk by the University of La Verne and just think, ‘Wow, I bet the smartest people in the world go there,’ or I would look at the rock and just go, ‘Oh, it’s so awesome.’” The routine at David and Margaret was exactly what Stacey needed. “I had a roof over my head, the lights were on, and I knew I was going to be eating,” she says. “David and Margaret was really good about getting us thinking about the future. They go so much the extra mile for us.”
One of her friends discovered a job that called for at-risk youth to work with other, younger, at-risk youth. “It was through the state of California, and it was like being a mini baby social worker.” She applied without hesitation. “There were over 200 applicants, and I am not known for being lucky. I could hit a wall backing up my truck, not the lottery,” she jokes. “I did interview after interview, and I, along with another girl, were selected. At 16, I had my own desk, computer and business cards. I was even making above minimum wage.”
Stacey then set her sights on a bachelor’s degree and enrolled in classes at Mt. San Antonio Community College. She remembers that she had the grit but not the skill from being repeatedly pulled out of classes for her father’s trial, and later for her own teenage court appearances. “When I first stepped on campus, it was easier to get back in my truck and drive away, but I didn’t. I met with my adviser and stapled my degree completion form on my wall to keep me on track.” Stacey spent long hours in the library when she was not working, and she excelled in her classes. Then, Stephanie passed away at age 19 from her cancer. Stacey was 18, and she took her sister’s death hard. But she admired her sister, who wanted to be an airline pilot and was taking distance learning classes from UCLA. “She just reminds me to try. I’m here on this earth, and my life may not go where I want it to go, but I’m going to try,” Stacey says with resolve. “So I tried.” She finished her courses at Mt. SAC and transferred to the University of La Verne to earn a bachelor of science degree in criminology. She took a juvenile delinquency class with Sharon Davis. “It was like a lightbulb went off for me. I knew this was what I wanted to pursue.”
In passionate pursuit of a career studying crime and teaching college students, Stacey went on to earn her master’s degree in criminal justice from Chapman University. There, she met her husband Dave, who was in the military. They were married, and she began her journey as an educator, both in the classroom and at home.
Stacey and Dave have been married for 15 years. They share a love of horror movies (Halloween is her favorite holiday), and she appreciates that Dave is a family man. “Dave showed me things I had never had the opportunity to experience before, like fun and self-acceptance,” Stacey reflects. They have two sons together: Jackson, who is 12, and Jefferson, almost 7 years old. Stacey wanted to pursue her dream of teaching criminology full time at a university, and she knew to do so she had to earn a doctorate degree. Her only obstacle was that the degree would be expensive, and they had two children to support. But Dave qualified for GI Bill educational assistance. He transferred that to Stacey. “He did all that time in the military and for someone to give you a ticket to having your Ph.D. program taken care of, that’s a lot of love…I mean, I did give him two kids,” Stacey jests.
Those two children have become her world, and Stacey works tirelessly to be a role model. “They set off a whole other emotion in me that I don’t think I could have ever experienced any other way,” she says. Jackson was 5 years old when Jefferson was born, and Stacey remembers her second pregnancy being a scary time in her life because she had complications. Her husband was also deployed then, and she describes that time period as “chaotic.”
A year passed, and Stacey noticed that Jefferson’s speaking was delayed. “Nothing seemed off about Jefferson because he was happy, and even though he wasn’t talking as much, I thought that was normal because Jackson was also a late talker, and so was I.” Soon, she noticed that he would not make eye contact when he spoke, and he babbled often. Stacey started Jefferson at a private preschool, but the teacher treated him terribly simply because he did not listen the way the other children in the class did. “It broke my heart because I’m an educator, and education got me to a good place in my life,” Stacey says. “I wanted him to have a good experience in school.”
Jefferson was taken to a psychologist. “You start thinking as a mom that you did something wrong. Dave was still deployed, and Jackson was young, and it was a scary time.” The diagnosis: Autism. “I knew nothing about autism except to fear it, so I was terrified that my son was not normal, and he was going to have all of these challenges in life. Jefferson would get dirty looks when we went out, and people I knew for years that I thought were friends would tell me to institutionalize Jefferson or tell me how sorry they felt for me.” This was when Stacey was preparing to write her doctoral degree dissertation. Her research excited her, but her heart was being pulled in another direction. “I had to put my dissertation on hold to fight for Jefferson and still be a mother to Jackson.”
So she fought. She stayed up late relying on the research skills she had learned at ULV to find laws about special needs families and access to education. She spoke with other parents to learn about resources. She enrolled Jefferson in sign language classes because visual cues helped him communicate with the world. “I learned that my child does not need fixing; he needs acceptance. He may not do things the way we do, but I look at him and think, ‘Wow, I would never have thought about it that way.’ I get caught up trying to make him part of our world that I forget he has his own,” Stacey says, emotion thick in her voice.
She fondly remembers Jefferson’s experience learning how to swim. Jackson required lessons and hours of practicing. Jefferson dove right into the deep end. He swam down, grabbed some toys at the bottom, and bobbed right back up to the surface before diving down to find more toys. “My son has to exist in a neurotypical world,” she says. She wears a grey shirt that says, “Embrace Neurodiversity” printed in bold across the front. “He’s super gentle, super happy, but difference really bothers people even when it’s not dangerous.” The silver necklace she wears has two dangles. Each proudly displays her sons’ names. “My older son has ADHD, and so do I, so we are a neurodiverse family. When I got the diagnosis and the treatment for ADHD, it totally changed my life. Until my last breath, I hope to change the world for all the families with children like Jefferson. I would not have gotten to where I am without those two children, so, if anything, they saved my life. It’s an honor to be their mom. Where I got today is from the support, the love, and the belief that I got from the University of La Verne and David and Margaret. Imagine if we did that with families of kids with special needs. What would the world look like? I want to be part of that.” ■