A band instructor at William Chrisman High School in Independence exchanged electronic sexual messages and had sexual contact with a 14-year-old student, sometimes at school, according to court charges filed Tuesday.
James N. Owens, 27, allegedly exchanged more than 100 phone calls and more than 1,500 text messages with the girl, ranging from before 7 a.m. to after 10 p.m., according to court documents.
Owens is charged with one felony count of enticement of a child under 15 and one misdemeanor count of child molestation in the second degree. Jackson County prosecutors asked for a bond of $75,000. If convicted of enticement, he could be subject to lifetime supervision in addition to prison time.
The relationship was discovered when a thread of Facebook chats was intercepted that allegedly contained sexually explicit messages from both Owens and the girl. The activity was seen by a woman whose husband reported it to school officials and to police on Aug. 20, a few days after school started.
The girl reportedly told the school counselor that she had been in a romantic relationship with Owens since March and that it involved kissing and touching, sometimes in the band room at the school.
Independence police reviewed the chat log of the victim’s Facebook page and discovered at least two occasions that indicated sexual contact. Police also obtained a warrant to search Owens’ residence in Lee’s Summit, where they seized his cellphone, computer and iPod. Data obtained included photographs of the victim without a shirt or bra.
Owens is no longer listed among faculty members on the high school’s website. The district issued a statement Tuesday night saying he was immediately placed on leave when school officials learned of the allegations and he has not been back to William Chrisman since. The statement said the charges would be used to seek termination of Owens’ teaching contract.
“The district has been doing its own investigation and doing everything possible to aid police in their investigation,” according to the statement issued by Independence School District Superintendent Jim Hinson.
Hinson said police had asked the district not to release any information about the allegations until charges had been filed. The district will not comment further, at the request of prosecutors, he said.
Owens is identified as a clarinetist and band director at William Chrisman on the website of the NorthWinds Symphonic Band, which describes itself as a performing outlet for Kansas City-area music educators.