COVINGTON, Ky. -- A former Covington high school band director who sent more than 100 text messages to a 15-year-old female student says he was taken out of context in records released Wednesday.
Former Holmes High School Band Director Jared Murray was suspended with pay Friday, Sept. 6 after someone reported to the Covington Independent School District central office that he was engaged in inappropriate texting, attorney Eric Deters said.
With his attorney Chris Roach Thursday, Murray defended his reputation to radio host Bill Cunningham for the second time since news of the investigation against him went public.
"Most of (the texts) had to do with band-related activities, but I also allow myself to be a second father figure to a lot of the students,” Murray said last week in his first radio interview. “It’s so I can tell them if they need any kind of help for anything, just let me know and I'll always be there for them."
But text message records from late August to early September show his messages went beyond school activities.
On August 28, Murray texted the girl at 6:48 a.m., "You up?" "I knew I liked you for some reason", "Girl, you're always looking nice", and at 7:18 a.m., "You already know I'll smack your ass".
Thursday, Murray defended those texts and said his messages had “nothing to do with sexual solicitation.”
“That's all taken completely out of context,” Murray said. “What football coach or teacher out there today doesn’t say, ‘I'm gonna’ smack you on your ass?'”
The text records on Aug. 28 also show at 12:14 p.m., during school hours, Murray texted, "If I was twenty years younger maybe". At 3:22 p.m., "You look nice today".
On August 29, at 7:09 a.m., Murray texted the girl to say, "Morning, good lookin'". At 7:32 a.m.: "So when you moving in?" At 7:40 a.m.: "We would have tons of the fun".
At 8:24 p.m.: "These are the days I want to take you home and give you the love you deserve"
At 9:21 p.m.: "I miss you already". 9:23 p.m.: "Just know I love you". 9:40 p.m.: "Night baby doll".
Roach said records of Murray’s text messages were released to the media Wednesday -- but not to Murray or his legal council. He said as of Thursday, Murray’s defense still does not have copies of the text messages.
During his radio interview, Murray told Cunningham he would have no issue showing his wife the texts, but cannot because he routinely clears the memory in his phone and didn’t know he would need to save his text messages for a “scenario like this.”
“Throughout the years, this is how I’ve communicated to all of my students – through texts,” Murray said. “I’ve always told the kids, this kid in particular, if they're having a rough time, they can move in with my wife and I to clear their heads…Give them an outlet to get away from their problems.”
Murray said the student in question was having troubles at home and any affection shown in the texts were “emotional love, not sexual.”
“I truly love that kid as if she was my own daughter,” Murray said. “She knows through our conversations how I care for her…She was having a very, very bad day at her home and that’s what that was in reference to.”
The teen's mother, Shana Donski, said Murray was romantically pursuing her daughter and not acting like a caring father figure in his texts.
Murray said the current allegations against him have made him rethink how he will communicate with students in the future if he does return to teaching.
However, he insists that he did nothing wrong in the way he spoke with the girl.
“I know quite a few teachers within the Covington School District and Northern Kentucky who communicate with students via text,” he said. “What's being released is just one side of the story. There is an entire line of communication between myself and the student.”
During the investigation, Murray was ordered not to have any contact with students, attend any band competitions or step foot on school grounds.
“I received a call from the personnel director to say that they've finished their investigation and wanted to meet that afternoon to discuss findings with me," Murray said on Tuesday, Sept. 24.
Murray said he was then told that his contract would be terminated immediately. Murray was also told he could resign and the termination would not go into his file, according to the documents.
Deters’ office is calling the case against Murray a “scandal” and “unfair character assassination” and says it involves his accuser, Donski and a member of the Covington School District.
Murray said he thinks Donski motivated the allegations against him. He said she wanted her daughter out of band and he encouraged the girl to stay.
Donski told 9 On Your Side’s Jay Warren Thursday that her daughter has become a target of harassment at school and is now being home schooled while her family looks for another school for her to attend.”
"I wish (they had) come to me and as an individual first to clear this up," Murray said last week.
Murray’s lawyers added that they may sue the Covington School District and are planning to go on the legal offensive.
"As I told everybody, I gotta’ look out for me, my wife and my family…I just gotta’ clear my name,” Murray said last week.
Murray said he would like to be a band director again and would consider returning to Holmes if he was offered his job back.
Murray’s lawyers say they do not anticipate Murray will be arrested.
“There's a feeling that with the release of these texts that any possible criminal investigation is not continuing,” Roach said. “We know it's not necessarily over, but we're hoping no criminal charges will be brought…He still has some ways to go before this is over.”
The Covington Independent School District is not commenting on the investigation.
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