LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – A Clermont high school musical theater teacher is accused of using private singing lessons to inappropriately touch a 17-year-old student, according to a Lake County Sheriff's Office investigation.
Jason Misner, 37, a music teacher at East Ridge High School, was arrested Friday on battery charges. Prior to his arrest, Misner was suspended for inappropriate conduct, according to the arrest warrant.
Lake County detectives on May 1 began investigating reports that Misner was possibly having inappropriate contact and relationships with students. According to the arrest warrant, former students of the school emailed the Lake County School District complaining about Misner's behavior with his students, leading to the investigation.
Current and former students told detectives they saw Misner touching girls' buttocks and he would ask inappropriate questions about their sexual relationships.
Two former students, a brother and sister, told detectives that while they were not victims of sexual abuse, Misner had obtained a photo of the siblings and was circulating it to imply something lewd was happening in the image when in reality that was not the case.
Several former students interviewed described Misner using musical theater lessons to touch students. One witness said he saw Misner grab a victim's buttocks and when she reacted he said he was fixing her microphone.
The victim who Misner is accused of battering took private lessons from Misner beginning in 2015. She said Misner assumed a father figure role for her and would let her use his vehicle and pay for her trips. The victim told detectives that over the years he became increasingly physical and would obsessively text her about her whereabouts.
Around the victim's senior year, Misner began giving the victim private lessons in the back room at Real Life Church, according to the report. The victim said Misner would touch her breasts under her clothing and put his hands on her crotch area during these lessons. She said Misner told her not to wear a bra during these lessons and after each lesson Misner would take the victim to dinner, according to the arrest warrant.
Detectives said Misner admitted to touching the victim under her clothing but said it was "necessary to regulate and monitor her breathing during" vocal lessons.
The victim said that after she turned 18 Misner invited her to his home for a lesson. While at his home, the victim said, Misner told her to remove her clothing and wear only a T-shirt to conduct the singing lesson. The victims said after that incident cause her to be extremely afraid and she blocked all contact with Misner.
Misner is charged with several counts of battery. Because the victim was 17 when the battery occurred, the alleged crimes do not qualify under Florida statutes as sex crimes, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Misner has been employed with the Lake County School District since 2010, first as a math teacher then as a music teacher, according to district officials.
"When we became aware of the allegations, we immediately reassigned him to a position where he would have no contact with students while authorities investigated," Lake County School District spokeswoman Sherri Owens said. "We are cooperating fully with law enforcement."
Misner used paid time off he had accumulated to take a leave of absence after he was reassigned. He was on leave at the time of his arrest, officials said.