SNAP responds to Sacramento private school controversy
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, [email protected])
We hope that every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes at this school will find the courage to speak up, get help, call police, expose wrongdoers and start healing. We also hope that former staff, students and parents will be brave enough to contact law enforcement with anything they may know or have suspected about abuse here.
If you have knowledge or suspicions – however old, small or seemingly insignificant – about child sex crimes, it's your moral and civic duty to call police. Please summon the courage to do what's right, call law enforcement and hopefully prevent more devastated lives.
One skeptical parent made an important comment to the Sacramento Bee. She said “I don't see how it's possible something like this could have gone on so long without anyone noticing.” We agree. We firmly believe that at least a few current or former employees saw or suspected wrongdoing but kept silent. We hope they will speak up now. It’s never too late to help police and prosecutors catch predators.
Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Molestation investigation shuts Citrus Heights private school
By Cynthia Hubert, Matt Kawahara and Diana Lambert
[email protected] - Sunday, Jul. 31, 2011 - 2:02 pm
Officials shut down a private Citrus Heights elementary school Monday and suspended its license pending a sweeping investigation into allegations that its principal molested children over the past 15 years.
A complaint prepared by the California Department of Social Services accuses the principal, Robert Adams, of "inappropriate physical and sexual contact with children" numerous times beginning in 1997 at his Creative Frontiers Preschool on Sylvan Road. Adams operates the school with his wife, Saundra, according to the complaint.
Following a joint investigation with the Citrus Heights Police Department, officials closed the school Monday and suspended its license. Parents were told to pick up their children by 5 p.m. Officers met them on site.
Police later met privately with parents of current and former students of the school, which was offering day care for children this summer. A law enforcement chaplain was on hand.
During the regular school year, Creative Frontiers, established in 1975, enrolled more than 200 children in preschool through sixth grade.
Adams, 60, described as "the focus of the investigation," has not been arrested. Police cordoned off the school Monday afternoon and were conducting a search of the facilities as well as the principal's butter-yellow home in a tony Folsom neighborhood.
"This is a very sensitive investigation. We want to move methodically," said Jon Kempf, Citrus Heights police spokesman. "This is one piece of it."
Police said, based on their investigation, they believe at least 10 children may have been victims of molestation.
"We believe there probably are additional victims," Kempf said.
Calls and an email to Adams were not returned.
His lawyer, Linda Parisi, said the allegations are "absolutely untrue," and that her client is "shocked and saddened" by them.
In its complaint, the Social Services Department alleges that Adams, whom students referred to as "Mr. Bob," touched female pupils on their chests and vaginal areas, touched their bodies under their shirts and down their pants, and "secluded" female children under a computer desk and lay with them on a mat in his office.
The complaint also names office administrator Cynthia Higgins, alleging that she failed to report the principal's behavior after receiving complaints. It says a volunteer, Irma Mertens, saw Robert Adams touch a girl's buttocks after inserting his hand under her swimsuit and told Higgins about it.
For some observers, the case evoked memories of the notorious McMartin preschool trial of the 1980s. The McMartin family operated a preschool in Southern California, and seven people initially were charged with numerous acts of sexual abuse of children in their care.
Years of criminal trials produced no convictions, and all charges were dropped in 1990.
The case was spawned by a mother who told police that her son had been sodomized at the school, and the allegations grew from there. Police sent a letter to about 200 parents of students at the McMartin school, asking them to question their children about abuse. Critics have said that children were asked leading questions, some of which produced bizarre accusations including travels in hot air balloons and trips through secret tunnels.
Parents who emerged from the meeting Monday evening with police at the Citrus Heights Community Center were reluctant to talk to reporters.
Some raved about Creative Frontiers.
"It's a wonderful school," said Elli Johnston, whose 3-year-old daughter has been attending this summer.
Johnston was unsure what to make of the allegations. But if they are true, she said, "I don't see how it's possible something like this could have gone on so long without anyone noticing."
The private elementary school in the summer operates as a day camp and summer camp for children. Summer camp began June 6 and was scheduled to run through August for children in preschool through eighth grade.
The school, located on a 7-acre country estate, is accredited through the Western States Association of Schools and Colleges. It features a swimming pool and a horseback riding area.
Adams, who founded the school, previously owned three swim schools for infants through pre-teens, according to a biography posted on the Creative Frontiers website. He has three adult daughters, including one who taught at the school. He filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1998 on behalf of Creative Frontiers.
In 2008, he was named administrator of the year by the Professional Association for Childhood Education.
The move to revoke the license of a school while it is in session is highly unusual, said a spokesman for the Department of Social Services. "It happens, but it usually involves a much smaller setting," said Oscar Ramirez.
He said the agency is offering resources to parents "so that they can find another child care facility" as quickly as possible.
Courtney Adams, the principal's daughter, attended the meeting with parents. She told reporters afterward that many parents supported her father and were worried about where their children would be attending school.
"Their worries were not 'Did Mr. Bob do this?' " Adams said. "Their worries are that they are closing our children's school.
"They have ruined a man's life."
This article has been changed from the print version to eliminate a reference to the school as a charter school. Creative Frontiers is a private school, not a charter school. Corrected on July 19, 2011.
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