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Central High teacher held on sex charge

The 36-year-old will be suspended from teaching and coaching until the case is resolved.

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK
Published April 10, 2004

BROOKSVILLE - Central High School teacher and coach James A. Jensen was arrested late Thursday after admitting that he asked a 16-year-old student to perform oral sex on him, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

Jensen will be suspended from his teaching and coaching duties until the charge against him - one count of attempted sexual battery - is resolved.

Jensen, 36, a social studies teacher, also coaches girls volleyball and boys baseball.

According to the arrest report, Jensen waived his right to have a lawyer present and then confessed to the third-degree felony charge, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

The girl reportedly agreed to his request but never followed through.

He acknowledged asking the girl to wear a short skirt with no underwear to class, and then to sit in the front row, according to the arrest report. He further said he rounded up the girl's grades.

The victim told deputies that Jensen repeatedly asked her to perform oral sex, told her that he wanted to have sex with her and frequently tried to get her alone.

At one time, Jensen called the girl on her cell phone and asked her to come to a baseball field, where he wanted to have sex with her.

School district personnel director Barbara Kidder said Jensen would be suspended with pay when classes resume April 19, after spring vacation. When the School Board meets a day later, she said, he probably will be suspended without pay.

Kidder did not expect him to be in contact with students again, unless he is cleared of the charge.

Until the district can take formal action, Kidder said, principal Dennis McGeehan has taken steps to ensure that all baseball games taking place during the break will be coached by someone else.

"We definitely won't have him on the field with kids," she said.

McGeehan said that a student reported the situation to his office and that he immediately turned it over to the Sheriff's Office.

In addition to recommending Jensen's suspension, McGeehan said the matter should be reported to the state Education Practices Commission.

"The whole thing is unfortunate; it's a shame for all involved," McGeehan said. "It's something we as educators hate to see take place."

Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Joe Paez said the girl told deputies her story before anything more than words passed between her and her teacher.

"The girl was smart enough not to get herself into a jam," Paez said.

The incident is not the first of alleged sexual misconduct by an instructor or coach at Central High. One year ago, girls track coach Richard Ortiz was charged with two misdemeanor counts of battery for inappropriately touching two team members.

Ortiz was suspended without pay and no longer works with the district. His case was dismissed after he completed a pretrial intervention program, according to court records.

Jensen, who could not be reached for comment, was released from the Hernando County Jail on $10,000 bond.

Jensen grew up in Brooksville, playing football and soccer for Hernando High School during the mid 1980s. As a junior, he was the third highest scorer in his conference as a soccer forward.

He is married to a Brooksville Elementary School teacher.

- Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at 352 754-6115 or solochek@sptimes.com

[Last modified April 10, 2004, 02:05:34]


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