A Mayflower art instructor was formally charged Friday with two counts of first-degree sexual assault following allegations that she had inappropriate relations with a 17-year-old student.
As the school district's senior class graduated May 15, the visual art instructor was jailed on suspicion of having inappropriate relations with one of her students.
While the age of consent in Arkansas is 16 years old, 32-year-old Jessica Kaplan would be in violation of Arkansas Code § 5-14-124 if found guilty. Online records show felony charges were formally filed Friday against the art instructor.
Arkansas Code § 5-14-124 states that any person of trust or authority over a minor accused of having "sexual intercourse or deviate sexual activity" with the underage victim is guilty of first-degree sexual assault. Arkansas law also states that an accused subject is guilty of first-degree sexual assault if they are an employee at the victim's school or school district or a temporary caretaker of the alleged victim.
"It is no defense to a prosecution under this section that the victim consented to the conduct," according to Arkansas law.
First-degree sexual assault is a Class A felony and carries a punishment range of six to 30 years in prison with a fine up to $15,000.
Online records show Kaplan has admitted to two separate sexual encounters with the 17-year-old.
The first encounter occurred in her classroom on May 6, according to a statement she gave to authorities at the Mayflower Police Department.
In her statement, she told police that she and the alleged victim "became intimate in the classroom and moved to the classroom closet to engage in sex" on May 6. The second sexual encounter Kaplan reportedly had with her student occurred May 8 while she was giving him a ride home from a band concert.
"Mrs. Jessica L. Kaplan admitted to a second encounter with [the juvenile] that took place in her car after a band concert at the Mayflower Middle School," the probable cause affidavit reads in part. "[Kaplan] said after the concert she was giving [the 17-year-old] a ride home and took a detour, stopping on a random road to have sex with him."
Mayflower Superintendent John Gray said he could not comment on Kaplan's employment standing at the school on Friday but would follow up with the Log Cabin on June 14 after meeting with other school administrators.
Kaplan is currently scheduled to appear in Faulkner County Circuit Court on Monday for a review hearing regarding the aforementioned charges. However, her attorney, Toney Baker Brasuell, filed a motion Friday afternoon asking the court to delay the hearing to a later date.