A former teacher's aide with the Franklin County School District is free on a $50,000 bond after being arrested on multiple charges of sexual misconduct and contributing to the delinquency of minors.
Kristi Jolynn Whelan, 39, of Winchester, is charged with two counts of solicitation of a minor/solicitation of sexual battery by an authority figure, four counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, four counts of purchasing alcohol for a child and providing smoking paraphernalia to a minor, according to a Franklin County Sheriff's Office news release. Whelan faces a court appearance Sept. 18.
Whelan had no attorney on record, according to officials in Franklin County General Sessions Court. The Chattanooga Times Free Press could not locate a phone number for Whelan and she did not respond to a message seeking comment sent Friday to a Facebook account in her name.
Whelan, who was arrested Aug. 6, worked at North Middle School in Winchester and quit the job at the end of the last school year, Sheriff's Office spokesperson Sgt. Sam Davidson said Friday in a phone interview. Davidson said the alleged incidents took place after that.
Sheriff's Office reports show all four alleged victims knew Whelan as a teacher or substitute teacher from North Middle. The investigation began Aug. 4 when guardians of four local teens told Sgt. Todd Hindman that Whelan picked the children up at a market in nearby Estill Springs without parental permission and took them to Walmart, according to law enforcement. Whelan allegedly purchased alcoholic beverages for the teens along with some other items, took them to McDonald's, and dropped them off with the alcohol in Estill Springs, reports state.
While Hindman investigated the alcohol purchase, he learned of photos allegedly sent through Snapchat by Whelan to two of the juveniles, reports state. The photo was of a mostly nude woman who covered her face and private parts. A "distinctive" tattoo visible in the photos identified Whelan as the person pictured, Hindman said in his report.
One of the teens told Hindman he asked Whelan to purchase a THC vape cartridge for him about two months prior and she agreed, reports state. The teen said he used the cartridge once and threw it away. He also told Hindman that Whelan had sent him a photo of herself in Florida dressed in a bathing suit and wrapped in a towel.
Another of the four teens said he and Whelan had a series of conversations on Snapchat, Hindman's reports state. Whelan allegedly asked the teen if he wanted to "see something," then sent him three digital photos of herself nude with her face covered. The same distinctive tattoo was visible, Hindman said.
Whelan no longer works for the school system, Franklin County Director of Schools Cary Holman said Friday in an emailed statement that included no other employment details.
"As a result, the local authorities have all legal information," Holman said. "Franklin County School District continues to monitor all personnel records to ensure our students are receiving quality instruction and guidance for employees in good standing."