LAFAYETTE, Ind. — An ex-Jeff choir director claims he was extorted by allegations of sexual harassments by students wanting to avoid punishment for being high at rehearsal, according to Ja’Shon Burks’ response to two students’ civil lawsuits.
One week after Lafayette Jeff High School choir members showed up for rehearsal stoned, some of the students accused Burks of sexual harassment as a way to “extort” their teacher and avoid punishment, Burks claimed in his responses filed last week.
As a result of the students’ allegations, Burks was put on administrative leave on Sept. 28, 2022 — the day the students reported Burks’ alleged sexual harassment. He later resigned rather than face termination, ending his three-year employment with the Lafayette School Corp.
“(T)he senior leaders and dance captains told Burks that there were students who had smoked marijuana prior to the evening’s rehearsal and those students went to the rehearsal high or under the influence of marijuana,” Burks stated in the eight-page written response to the allegations two students filed in a civil lawsuit in June.
These students bragged about being high at rehearsal on social media, according to Burks’ response.
“(S)everal students threatened to ‘blackmail’ or ‘extort’ Burks if the students who were high or under the influence of marijuana at the evening rehearsal were found to be in trouble by Burks or by school administrators,” the ex-choir director states in his response, which includes a counter claim against the two Jane Does and their parents who field the civil suits against him.
More: Parents’ lawsuit against former Jefferson choir director alleges groomer behavior
He was criminally charged in June with 11 counts of child seduction and four counts of sexual battery, accusing him of inappropriately interacting with his students who were girls. His trial currently is scheduled for Oct. 10.
The criminal charges accuse Burks of touching his students in a sexual manner, including giving the girls hugs while his hands were under their shirts on their bare skin, as well as touching the girls’ buttocks while hugging them. Additionally, he is accused of putting his hands on victims’ thighs near their crotch, touching the girls’ buttocks and waists.
He is also accused of giving the girls’ kisses on their cheeks and foreheads, having girls sit on his lap in his office, as well as telling some of the girls he’d leave his wife to sexually be with them, according to prosecutors.
School surveillance cameras recorded some of the specific incidents reported by the girls, according to prosecutors.
In Burks’ counter claim to the civil lawsuit plaintiffs, Burks denies all of the claims of misconduct against him.
“Jane Doe along with other students made malice communications that imputed: A. criminal conduct: (B) misconduct in Burks’s (sic) trade, profession or occupation, or (C) sexual misconduct,” Burks counter claim states.
“Jane Doe’s extreme and outrageous communications and or statements intentionally or recklessly caused severe distress to Burks,” the counter claim states. “That Burks is entitled to presumed, punitive and compensatory damages in a reasonable amount to compensate him for his pain, suffering, humiliation, and emotional distress.”
In his response to the students’ allegations against him, Burks denied any wrongdoing, as did Lafayette School Corp. in its response to the students’ claims that the school district breached its responsibility to protect its students from Burks.
No trial dates have been set in the civil case against Burks and Lafayette schools.
Reach Ron Wilkins at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @RonWilkins2.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Ex-choir director: Students’ allegations of harassment is extortion