By Ray Huard
A former Helix Charter High School band director/music teacher was sentenced to three years' probation Wednesday for having sex with a 17-year-old student.
Jessica Ashley Kahal also was ordered by El Cajon Superior Court Judge Patricia K. Cookson to perform 400 hours of volunteer work, get psychological counseling and avoid contact with anyone under 18.
Kahal, 22, pleaded guilty in December to a charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor at least three years younger.
Had she gone to trial and been convicted, Kahal faced up to six years in prison, Deputy District Attorney Renee Palermo said.
Kahal admitted having sex with the student at least twice between August and September – once in a La Mesa apartment she shared with a long-time friend and once in the school band room one weekend, according to court documents.
The student told probation officials they had five sexual encounters – once in the band room and four times in his or her car.
Palermo argued in court that Kahal should be jailed for 120 days because she took advantage of her position as a teacher and failed to take full responsibility for her actions by telling probation officials that the student initiated the sexual contact.
Wiping tears from her eyes, Kahal said little other than to acknowledge the judge's sentence. According to court documents, she had told probation officials “I was the opposite of a role model.”
Defense attorney William Burnell said Kahal was humiliated by what happened.
“She's lost friends over this, she's lost her job, and I think not insignificant, her dignity has taken a direct hit,” Burnell said.
Kahal's relationship with the student came to light in October when she told her roommate, who was dating the school's assistant band director. The assistant director and another teacher went to the school principal, who called La Mesa police.
Kahal resigned on Oct. 5, and is now living with her parents in Los Angeles County and working as a waitress, according to court documents.
A music education graduate of Indiana University, she told probation officials that she plans to get a master's degree in music and hopes to be an orchestra condutor.
Kahal told officials that the band director/teaching slot she got in August was her first job out of college and she was quickly in over her head. She said she originally thought she would be the assistant director, but was offered the director's job.
“It was too much to take on,” she told officials. “I had a lot of breakdowns. I felt like I didn't know what I was doing.”
Feeling lonely, Kahal said she got involved with the student after he started flirting with her. He was her teaching assistant, she said.
Kahal said she knew what she was doing was wrong, but told the student not to tell anyone.
Note from Gag:
Every time I feel like I don't know what I'm doing I reach for a cold one. Jessica, apparently, reaches for the nearest high school age penis.