LA CROSSE, WI (WTAQ) - A school near La Crosse is not saying how a convicted felon got hired, before he was charged with molesting his students.
Jason Barker was the head of special education at the La Crescent Montessori Academy, just west of La Crosse in Minnesota.
Prosecutors said he had inappropriate relationships with 3 young girls, including one incident in which Barker allegedly touched a student’s breasts. Officials said he left the school after several students told him to end the abuse.
Barker was hired despite having a number of convictions which included felony criminal damage, burglary, and a drug-related charge.
The Montessori school’s attorney refused to explain how Barker could have been hired. The La Crosse Tribune and the Winona Daily News said he worked at 3 other schools previously – two in Winona and the Three Rivers Waldorf School in La Crosse.
The administrator there, Justin McKnight, said the school checked state criminal records – and Barker came back clean because all his prior convictions were in neighboring Minnesota. He said his school was having turnover at the time – and McKnight says he now handles background checks that are much more diligent.
Meanwhile, the newspapers said Barker was already working at the La Crescent school last May when he was accused of threatening to stab a couple whom he accused of cutting him off during a bike ride in Winona.
Barker had a pre-trial hearing in that case Thursday, and he’s due back in court in the La Crescent case next Wednesday.