A Kentwood High School JROTC program instructor was charged Monday with sexually assaulting a 15-year-old student, records show.
Joseph A. Byrd, 45, used his position of authority to “invite” the student to an empty portable classroom used as a storage room, where he assaulted her, according to court documents. He’s accused of third-degree rape and communicating with a minor for immoral purposes — the latter charge because he sent the student sexually explicit text messages, expressing he again wanted to have sexual contact with her, King County prosecutors allege.
The school’s principal called police May 4 to report allegations of an inappropriate relationship between the student and Byrd, an instructor with the school’s Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program.
The student did not participate in the elective program, which aims to prepare high school students for leadership roles, but would frequent the classroom, according to probable cause documents.
A King County sheriff’s detective on June 1 spoke with the student, who said she would talk about “life and stuff” with Byrd and that they began texting April 29, according to court documents.
They had a sexual encounter that day and exchanged sexually explicit text messages afterward, court documents allege.
Cameras showed Byrd disabling the alarm on a portable classroom used as a storage room, propping the door open, waiting for the student to go inside and following her into the room, according to probable cause documents.
Byrd on May 2 told the student to delete their texting history after a couple of other students confronted him about the messages, according to court documents.
Another student also told a different JROTC instructor about the messages, according to court documents. Byrd and the student stopped texting May 4 after the Kent School District suspended him, records say.
District officials declined to say whether Byrd is still a district employee.
He was arrested last Thursday, booked into the King County Jail and released on bond the next day.
Byrd has not been assigned a lawyer, according to the King County Superior Court Clerk’s Office.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct that the school’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program is affiliated with the Marine Corps.