Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 20, 2012

Kids supervised by sex offender at Traverse City school


TRAVERSE CITY — Local school officials ousted an elementary school basketball coach from her volunteer position after she left her team of 2nd and 3rd grade girls under the supervision of her husband, a registered sex offender.

The coach, identified in practice schedules as Jessica Buchner, left her husband Jared Buchner alone with the student athletes in Cherry Knoll Elementary School's gymnasium for a brief time the afternoon of Nov. 16.

Cherry Knoll Principal Chris Parker saw the coach exit the gym and went inside to make sure someone was watching her team, an email that Parker sent to parents and teachers stated.

Jessica Buchner told school officials she left to get ice for one of the students, Traverse City Area Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Cousins said.

Parker observed Jared Buchner passing basketballs to the team as they practiced free throws.

Buchner was not acting suspiciously, but Parker had an uneasy feeling about him, Cousins said. Parker later learned Jared Buchner is a register sex offender when he checked his name against the online sex offender registry.

"I'm really glad (Parker) followed up on the gut instinct he had," Cousins said.

Jared Buchner, 38, was convicted of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in Grand Traverse County Circuit Court in 2002.

Cousins said TCAPS runs background checks on volunteer coaches, but not on their spouses.

Jared Buchner and Jessica Buchner could not be reached for comment.

District officials filed a police report with the Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Department.

State law forbids registered sex offenders from entering school grounds under most circumstances, Cousins said. Some exceptions do apply, including when the child of a registered offender has a school event or a parent-teacher conference.

Officials filed the police report so sheriff's deputies can determine if the incident violated state law, Cousins said.

Grand Traverse County Sheriff Thomas Bensley did not return a call seeking comment.

Cousins said parents of athletes on elementary school sports teams often attend team practices.

Jared Buchner will not be allowed on Cherry Knoll grounds from now on unless he makes an appointment with Parker.

Parker will serve as the team's coach until a replacement is found.