LA CRESCENT, Minn. — A special-education teacher at the La Crescent Montessori Academy has been charged with molesting children after he was confronted at school by his students, according to court records.
Jason David Barker of Winona is charged in Houston County District Court with second-degree criminal sexual conduct and fifth-degree sexual conduct with children younger than 13.
Barker, 37, already faces unrelated felony charges in Winona County for threatening to stab a couple. Additionally, he was convicted of felony criminal damage to property in 1995 in Minnesota’s Ramsey County.
Five students confronted Barker earlier this month about their discomfort with how he “acted with them,” prosecutors said.
At least one student told a school staff member that Barker put “his hands down the back of her pants, lifted her shirt, rubbed her belly and touched her breasts,” according to the criminal complaint. The student also said Barker made her sit on his lap in his office.
One student said the abuse had been happening for months.
School staff called police after the confrontation, and Barker was arrested Jan. 18 at his home.
Barker had been a part-time substitute teacher at the 62-student school since April. He was hired full-time as the special-education director in September, despite being charged with a felony in June in Winona County.
He has resigned.
The charter school, which is not affiliated with the La Crescent-Hokah School District, referred questions to its attorney, who declined immediate comment.
Barker denied to school officials that he was a child molester and said he loved the students, according to the complaint.
He admitted that sometimes he “pushes boundaries,” the complaint stated, but later amended that statement to say he meant “boundaries in teaching.”
Barker later told police he hugged students, gave them back rubs and had them sit on his lap with his office door closed, prosecutors said.
He denied touching any students in the “breast, buttocks or vaginal areas.”
Barker also worked at Bluffview Montessori School in Winona in 2011, where he served as a long-term substitute teacher. He is not accused of any wrongdoing at that school.
In the Winona County case, prosecutors say Barker brandished a knife, reached into a car and threatened to stab a couple he accused of cutting him off during a bicycle ride.
Barker has a pre-trial hearing in that case Thursday.