A Hammonton man employed as a high school marching band director has been charged with the sexual assault of a 16-year-old student, acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain announced Thursday.
Jason Koenig, 26, who resigned as band director April 23, is charged with official misconduct, sexual assault, criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of children.
The state alleges that Koenig committed these crimes against a 16-year-old Hammonton High School student in November and December 2013 while he was an aide and marching band director.
“He has an attorney who is aware of the charges, and we are anticipating he will turn himself in shortly,” Hammonton police Chief Robert Jones said. Koenig had not turned himself in as of 8:30 p.m.
Hammonton School Board President Joe Giralo said the full nature of the allegations has not been made clear to the school administration, but he believes the involved student is a female.
On Thursday night, about 75 Hammonton High School band parents and students met with school district and Board of Education officials.
“Their main concern was how to go forward with the band,” Giralo said. “We are moving forward with everything.”
Giralo said the allegations made him ill.
“It sickens me as a father of teenage daughters,” he said. “I’m always concerned about the welfare and safety of every one of the students, but when you have children that age it really makes your hair stand on end.”
He said the district is making counseling available to any student who needs help dealing with feelings about the allegations and Koenig’s resignation a day before the spring band trip.
He also said all staff members, whether teachers or aides such as Koenig, are provided with training about avoiding improper behavior toward students, and that Koenig had passed a criminal background check before being hired about four years ago.
“This topic is dealt with over and over and over,” said Giralo of the district’s anti-sexual harassment policy. “You can have the best policy in the world, but if people aren’t going to follow it, they aren’t going to follow it.”
For about three years Koenig was assistant band director, and had been director about a year.
Michele Samanic, of Hammonton, said Thursday night she had discussed the allegations with her daughter, a junior and a band member.
“She’s dealing with it very maturely,” Samanic said. “She’s handling it very well.”
Samanic does not think her daughter will have trouble trusting adults after hearing the allegations.
“She knows that if she hears something, she needs to tell someone — a trusted adult,” Samanic said. “She also knows to be careful not to spread rumors.”
Most parents did not want to be interviewed about their concerns or reaction to the meeting, but there seemed to be a general feeling of relief that Middle School Band Director Tim White had agreed to act as interim band director.
Giralo said all of the activities planned for summer, which include performances in parades and practice to get ready for the fall, will go on as planned.
Koenig was also the director of the jazz ensemble, Giralo said.
Staff Writer Braden Campbell contributed to this report.
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