By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
FRANKTON, Ind. —
A former principal of Frankton Jr.-Sr. High School faces child exploitation charges for allegedly exchanging inappropriate text messages with two female students while he was principal.
Jerry Hoss Jr., 43, of Anderson, was out of the Madison County Jail on $10,000 bail at 8 p.m. on Sunday, about an hour after he was booked on charges of child exploitation, official misconduct and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The first two charges are felonies. Hoss was arrested by Madison County sheriff's deputies.
According to the probable cause affidavit of the allegations, Hoss' cellphone contained evidence he contacted the two students in 2013 and 2012 and made inappropriate requests. One of the students, a then 16-year-old, approached Frankton Chief of Police David Hoffman in August and reported that Hoss had sent her several text messages early in the morning on Aug. 4.
The text from Hoss' cellphone requested the teenager send him a "selfie" — a self-taken photograph — and to delete the messages from him after she read them. She reported to police that she believed Hoss was asking for a nude photograph. She said she got Hoss' number in June when he gave her a ride to a friend's house.
The girl also told detectives that she knew Hoss had been accused of similar inappropriate conduct with a different student in the previous school year. In June, Hoss' contract as principal was terminated by the Frankton-Lapel Community Schools board. The board declined to discuss the specifics of why Hoss was fired, but open comments from those in attendance made it clear there was an investigation of text messages Hoss had sent to a female student earlier in the year.
Detectives examined Hoss' cellphone, confirmed the messages the girl had described and found half-naked pictures of Hoss that had been sent to the girl's number. Detectives also found messages Hoss sent to another teen, a then 17-year-old, on Nov. 2, 2012, when the girl was a senior at the high school.
The messages asked the teen to come over to his house and drink with him. On Jan. 8, the woman confirmed with detectives that Hoss sent the messages. She said she never gave him her cellphone number and she assumed he obtained it from school documents.
Attempts to reach Hoss on Monday were unsuccessful.
The decision to terminate Hoss' contract in June was met with anger from a standing-room-only crowd who attended the meeting at the school system's administrative building. Parents screamed their disapproval. A row of students started crying as the decision was handed down. People threatened to vote out the entire board in the next election. Nearly half of the crowd stormed out of the room after saying their piece. Hoss stayed on at the school until resigning on Aug. 21.
On Monday, Frankton-Lapel Superintendent Bobby Fields said he had no knowledge of the new charges against Hoss. He said he couldn't discuss the reason Hoss wasn't renewed, but said it wasn't related to the new allegations.
"Obviously, hearing about it is concerning to us," Fields said. "I don't know what you can do to prevent things like this from happening. You saw he had a lot of support at that meeting last year. Some of his closest friends had no idea what was going on."
Fields said he's not completely familiar with the allegations against Hoss, but if any of the reported victims are current Frankton students, the school system would offer whatever help they need, including counseling.
"It's our responsibility to give them whatever help we can," Fields said.
Greg Granger, an Anderson University graduate, replaced Hoss as principal at the school.
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