TRAVERSE CITY — A private voice instructor who's accused of having sex with a Traverse City West Senior High School student could be considered a teacher, a contractual service provider and a volunteer with the school district, a judge ruled.
Eighty-sixth District Court Judge Thomas Phillips today said a felony case against Jayme Jay Kratky, 33, of Traverse City, will proceed to 13th Circuit Court. Kratky faces a charge of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, and Phillips sent the case to circuit court after a lengthy hearing that focused on Kratky's exact relationship with Traverse City Area Public Schools.
Phillips' ruling that Kratky had a working relationship with TCAPS is key to the criminal case. He is accused of having sex with a 16-year-old female TC West student, and although she is old enough to engage in consensual sex, state law forbids certain individuals who work in schools from having sexual contact with students under age 18.
"It's clear that he is recommended as one of the teachers the chorale program believed would be beneficial to their students," Phillips said.
Kratky's attorney Paul Jarboe argued the very specific language of the third-degree criminal sexual conduct law didn't apply to Kratky because he was a private tutor paid directly by parents or students, and never held direct employment with TCAPS. The law applies to defendants who use their employment, contractual, or volunteer relationship with a school to gain access to a student victim under the age of 18.
"I don't think he's a teacher, judge," Jarboe said.
But Phillips in his decision referred to testimony and evidence that indicated Kratky worked with what amounted to the "blessing" and trust of the chorale department.
Wendee Wolf-Schlarf, a TCAPS chorale director and music coordinator, said Kratky taught students for the past three or four years. She said his name was among a list of approved local private voice teachers the school provided to choir students who sought to boost their skills.
"Singing is very personal and it needs to make sure it supports what we're doing in the classroom," Wolf-Schlarf said. "We do take great ownership in this list."
Wolf-Schlarf said private teachers like Kratky provide an important service for a competitive TCAPS choir program with instructors who may not be able to provide individualized attention. She said such teachers regularly give lessons in the school's music rooms and, before the allegations arose against Kratky, they frequently walked in and out of the school without registering at the office.
Grand Traverse County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg asked whether private voice teachers who weren't on the list would be allowed in the school.
"They are not," Wolf-Schlarf said.
Traverse City Police Detective Matt Richmond said his investigation showed Kratky taught nearly 50 students, mostly from TCAPS, but also found no contractual or a paid relationship with the school.
Phillips found Kratky's relationship with the school not only indicated he could be considered a teacher, but also a contractual service provider and a volunteer. He said Kratky and the school had a mutually beneficial arrangement that gave a third party — the students — an opportunity to obtain additional education.
Jarboe asked Phillips to enter a not guilty plea on behalf of Kratky. He expects the issue of whether the law applies to Kratky's case to be an issue for future court hearings.
"We'll have the opportunity to argue the legal issues again in circuit court," Jarboe said.