Advertisement

Coast teacher accused of sex with student says he didn’t know it was ‘felony-type’ crime

An Ocean Springs High School physics teacher arrested for allegedly having sex with a student said he didn’t know what he was doing was a “a felony-type crime.”

James Donald Hawkins II, 38, made the statement during his initial appearance Friday before Circuit Judge Calvin Taylor.

Hawkins is being held in the Jackson County jail on one count of sexual battery while in a position of trust or authority over the child.

James Hawkins, a former Ocean Springs physics teacher, appears in Jackson County Circuit Court in Pascagoula on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. Hawkins was charged with one count of sexual battery after allegedly having a relationship with a student.
James Hawkins, a former Ocean Springs physics teacher, appears in Jackson County Circuit Court in Pascagoula on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. Hawkins was charged with one count of sexual battery after allegedly having a relationship with a student.

Hawkins said he is married and lives with his wife and children in Ocean Springs.

At the hearing, Assistant District Attorney Bill Barrett said prosecutors objected to a bond for Hawkins because of conversations he had with investigators after his arrest.

In those conversations, Barrett said, Hawkins made comments about leaving town with the victim, identified as 17-year-old student of Hawkins.

During the hearing, Hawkins said, “I’m not a flight risk.’

Hawkins made the comments after the judge warned him that whatever statement he had made or continued to make could be held against him during the prosecution of his case.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Calvin Taylor listens to a prosecutor as he presides over James Hawkins’ initial appearance in Jackson County Circuit Court in Pascagoula on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. Hawkins, a former Ocean Springs physics teacher, was denied bond after being charged with one count of sexual battery for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a student.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department arrested Hawkins on Thursday, the same day the Ocean Springs School District fired him amid the criminal allegations.

The case remains under investigation and more charges could follow.

The Ocean Springs School District said it fired Hawkins Thursday night after school officials learned of his arrest. Hawkins had worked at Ocean Springs High School since July 2022, according to a LinkedIn profile.

OSSD spokesman Trey Brennan said the School District is working with investigators “to assist them in any way possible.”

“The safety of our students and staff members remains the highest priority of OSSD and the charges against Hawkins are disturbing and intolerable,” Brennan said Thursday.

Before he began teaching at Ocean Springs High School, Hawkins worked in physics as a graduate student at Mississippi State University, according to his LinkedIn. His profile said he obtained a bachelor’s degree at the university between 2005 and 2019 and worked at various times as a professor’s assistant and physics lab graduate teaching assistant.

James Hawkins, a former Ocean Springs physics teacher, appears in Jackson County Circuit Court in Pascagoula on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. Hawkins was charged with one count of sexual battery after allegedly having a relationship with a student.
James Hawkins, a former Ocean Springs physics teacher, appears in Jackson County Circuit Court in Pascagoula on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. Hawkins was charged with one count of sexual battery after allegedly having a relationship with a student.

To report information, call Captain Kristen Johnson at 228-769-7559, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office at 228-769-3063 or Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers at 877-787-5898.