INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – Parents are reacting with outrage after learning criminal charges against a high school band teacher actually involve actions while he was teaching at a middle school.
Jackson County prosecutors charged James Owens on Tuesday with child molestation and enticement. Owens worked a band teacher at William Chrisman High School, but FOX 4 has learned the allegations stem from his teaching at Bingham Middle School.
Parents say the victim was an 8th grader at the middle school, not a high school student – and in the eyes of some, this makes the crimes worse because they happened in a school building with kids as young as 11.
“I think it’s awful,” said the parent of a former Bingham student, who now attends Chrisman High School.
According to court documents, a 14-year-old girl told Independence police she had been involved in a romantic relationship with her band teacher since March. Parents who know the girl told FOX 4 that in March the victim was an 8th grader at George Caleb Bingham Middle School.
Owens, 27, is accused of molesting and enticing the 14-year-old, who was one of his students. The girl told police sexual contact between the two involved kissing and touching at the school, sometimes in the band room. That may explain why one Bingham parent told FOX 4 that after the crimes were reported in August, children were no longer allowed in the band room.
“I don’t think he should ever teach again,” one parent said.
The parents we talked with declined to appear on camera and did not want their names used. But one woman, who we’re calling “Jane,” says preying on middle schoolers makes the crimes seem much worse.
“Just that she was so young,” Jane said. “He was a teacher, you know. Our children need to be protected. School is supposed to be a safe place. Not something for children to be scared of.”
Bingham parents say Owens started this school year at the middle school until he was placed on leave when the girl’s father reported the crimes to police on August 20th. His daughter had just begun attending William Chrisman High School as a freshman. Police say a Facebook chat between the girl and Owens before school started indicates sexual contact.
According to court documents it reads:
Victim: Hopefully you got a nice glimpse of my xxxxxx to get you through.
Owens: Yes!! Huge baby. Can’t wait to kiss them!
In court documents, police say they found photos of the girl without a shirt or bra, on Owens’ computer.
Parents also say they wish the school and the criminal justice system had taken action against Owens sooner, as it took more than three months for charges to be filed in the case.
The school district says police asked them not to release any information about Owens until now.