Nine years ago, a teacher received oral sex from a student during school hours and then had sex with her in the building after she graduated, according to a former Jackson County student.
They were also having sex outside of school, she said.
Jason Cunningham, 46, was bound over to circuit court on one felony count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a student between age 16 and 17 after the testimony during a preliminary examination on Monday, Oct. 29, in Jackson County’s 12th District Court.
The testimony showed the two had sex on multiple occasions after a period of “grooming,” 12th District Court Judge Michael Klaeren said in summary before binding the case over.
Cunningham’s accuser, now 27, testified that she knew Cunningham as a young girl and from babysitting his children, but also as her music teacher when she was a Napoleon High School student.
The woman, who is not being named given the nature of the case, testified that a sexual relationship began in May 2009, when she was 17 years old. Cunningham would’ve been 37.
The genesis of the relationship began one day in late April when Cunningham had just gotten home while she was babysitting, the woman testified.
The two had been making inappropriate jokes, but Cunningham then paused and looked down, seemingly upset, the woman testified.
He said, “Sometimes, it’s hard to stop,” before looking her up and down, she said. She told him she was worried about his marriage and children, not his job.
“That’s when he took the ring off,” she said. “He set it on his wallet that was on the counter and he looked at me and then his phone rang and it was (his wife).”
In the days that followed, Cunningham asked the girl to forget the exchange, she said. But when approached again about his intentions, he told her, if he was younger and not married, he would want to date her as long as she would have him, she said.
She suggested they get their feelings out of their system and the two made plans to have sex when his wife was out of town, she said.
The two always walked out of school together after talking for hours, the woman said. After that conversation, the walks began to end with groping.
“At that point, I idolized him as a person, so I believed I loved him,” the woman said.
The woman testified that in the days before the two had sex, they searched the age of consent for sex in Michigan on his office computer. They also searched the felony they were breaking – criminal sexual conduct.
“It was made very clear to me that nobody could know that we had these conversations even, because it would ruin his life,” she said.
Eventually, the two had sex several times at Cunningham’s home, the woman testified.
He also received oral sex from her in his office during school hours and in a training room, the woman said. After she graduated in late May 2009, she would return to have sex in the school’s band room. They continued to date until he ended things in June 2012.
When asked by Cunningham’s Southfield-based attorney, Ray Correll, if she was angry at Cunningham about the break-up, the woman said she was angry with herself. She thought she was to blame for the relationship ending.
Cunningham and his attorney declined comment following the Monday court appearance.
After 15 years at the school, Cunningham resigned from Napoleon Community Schools in 2016 citing a new job closer to home, Napoleon Community Schools Superintendent Jim Graham previously told MLive.
Cunningham resigned from his most recent post, Western Middle School, citing personal reasons in July, Western School District Superintendent Mike Smajda previously said. The move came after Western began to investigate the allegations now under scrutiny in the court process.
Cunningham previously was given a $5,000 personal recognizance bond. He will have to undergo testing for sexually transmitted diseases ahead of a pretrial in circuit court.
He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.