Kona teacher charged with sex assault of minor; DOE says alleged crimes did not occur on campus

  • Franks

A Konawaena Middle School teacher facing three counts of sexual assault against a minor made his initial court appearance Thursday in Kona District Court.

John Lee Franks, 43, of Ocean View, is charged with two counts of first-degree sexual assault of a minor and one count of continuous sexual assault of a minor stemming from alleged incidents committed against a girl between November 2021 and mid-February. The court records indicate Franks also goes by the name John Pryor.

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According to the complaint filed Thursday, Franks knowingly engaged in “sexual penetration” with a minor female born in 2009, who was less than 14 years old, on Nov. 9, 2021, and Feb. 10 and 14 of this year.

Nanea Kalani, communications director for the state Department of Education, confirmed Franks’ employment as a student services coordinator at Konawaena Middle School in South Kona. Franks was first employed with the department in 2008 as a special education teacher.

“Konawaena Middle School’s administration was made aware today of an alleged employee misconduct incident that took place off campus. A DOE investigation into the alleged incident is being initiated,” she said. “While we are not able to discuss details of personnel matters, we do want to assure families that the safety and well-being of students and staff is a top priority. The Department conducts detailed background checks on all applicants prior to employment.”

Kalani said she was still working on “verifying the status” of Franks’ employment in a Thursday afternoon email. No update was provided as of press-time. The department did not address questions regarding when Franks was last at the campus or if he is allowed to be at the school going forward.

A check of the Department of Education’s Hawaii Teacher Standards Board shows John Franks is licensed in “SPED/Severe Profound K-6.” The license, as of Thursday afternoon, was active with a June 2026 expiration date.

Franks was arrested Wednesday and bail was set at $150,000.

During his initial court appearance in Kona District Court Thursday, Judge Kimberly Taniyama reduced bail to $50,000 with the stipulation he have no contact with the victim. Deputy Public Defender Frederick Macapinlac had requested supervised release while Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Asia Howe argued bail be maintained.

A preliminary hearing is set for today.

All three offenses are Class A felonies, each of which can result in 20 years behind bars if Franks is convicted.

Franks remained in custody in lieu of $50,000 as of press-time Thursday, according to court records.

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