ST. LOUIS – A former high school counselor in St. Louis County was sentenced Tuesday for having sex and inappropriate contact with students.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Missouri said James Jenkins, 38, pleaded guilty in September to coercion and enticement of a minor, and transfer of obscene material to minors.

Jenkins admitted in court to maintaining inappropriate relations with several students between Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 1, 2021.

According to prosecutors, St. Louis County police responded to Hancock High School for a report of sexual misconduct by a guidance counselor.

Jenkins approached a 15-year-old student at school and telling her he wanted to get to know her better. The student would go to Jenkins’ office, where they would paint or play board games. At one point, Jenkins began contacting the teen on her cellphone and via social media. Jenkins requested nude pictures from the girl and sent her nude pictures in return. He claimed he loved her and wanted to have sex with her, and instructed her not to tell anyone about their communications.

A second victim said Jenkins approached her in the school lunchroom and asked her to come see him. He soon began to compliment her body and told her he wanted to have phone sex with her.

A third teen began meeting with Jenkins due to ongoing problems at home. He started communicated with her in a sexual manner, including sending her nudes and requesting similar pictures in return. Jenkins admitted having sex with the girl while she was a student, and occasionally would leave school early to do so. In his plea agreement, Jenkins disputed the teen’s claim their first sexual encounter was non-consensual.

Per Jenkins’ plea agreement, he told a fourth student that another teacher recommended she undergo counseling. During their meetings, Jenkins would bring up inappropriate topics, arranged to smoke marijuana with her, and asked her to teach him a sensual dance.

Six more students reported inappropriate behavior from Jenkins. They told investigators Jenkins would comment about their bodies, communicate with them on their cellphones and social media accounts, tried to make plans with them outside of school, showed them sexual videos, took his shirt off in their presence, called them pet names, and touched them in a manner that made them uncomfortable.

School officials spoke with Jenkins over concerns he was putting off or disregarding male students who needed help while engaging in frequent contact with female students, according to the plea agreement.

Jenkins left Hancock High School in summer 2021, claiming his mother was ill. However, he later tried to get a job as guidance counselor at an elementary school.

Investigators later discovered the St. Joseph School District in northwest Missouri had placed Jenkins on administrative leave due to inappropriate behavior with female students.

A U.S. District Court judge sentenced Jenkins to 15 years in federal prison. After his sentence, he’ll be on supervised release and will have to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life.

The mother of one victim said her daughter wanted to attend the sentencing, but was too traumatized from the ordeal. In a letter to the judge, the mother wrote, “(Jenkins) was supposed to be helping our seniors map out colleges to help them into the next step of their educational path. Instead, he was manipulating and grooming our girls for his pleasure while traumatizing them for life at the same time.”