Posts tagged Village School in Naples Florida

The Silent Story: Child Molesters And Predators In Our Schools

Yesterday the Los Angeles Times reported that teacher Mark Berndt of the Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles was arrested for the most despicable acts against children. Berndt is deservedly looking at multiple potential life sentences.

And it could have been prevented!

In 1994, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office decided not to press charges against veteran Los Angeles teacher Mark Berndt for fondling a girl because prosecutors determined there was “insufficient evidence.”

Now 18 years later, Berndt the teacher everyone loved has finally been arrested after a one-year investigation for the photographing children in class while he sexually relieved himself under his desk, spoon-fed his own semen to blindfolded elementary school children and photographed them with a giant live cockroach on their faces.  Berndt’s 23 counts of lewd acts against children took place between 2005 and 2010. The victims were both girls and boys between the ages of 7 and 10.

Hundreds of photos were recovered from Berndt’s home, showing Berndt with his arms around children or with his hands over their lips. Some allegedly show children with tape over their mouths. Several girls were photographed with a blue plastic spoon filled with an unknown clear white liquid held up to their mouths as if they were going to ingest the substance. The substance tested positive for Berndt’s semen according to law enforcement, who also found adult pornography in Berndt’s apartment that “mirrored” the bondage-type photos of the children. More than 26 children were identified in the 390 total photos. Ten of the children have not yet been formally identified.

Back in 1994, a girl, who was 10 or 11 years old at the time, reported Berndt fondling her over her clothing near her genital area. If prosecutors had probed deeper or another one of Berndt’ s victims had come forward, Berndt would not have been teaching and the children at Miramonte Elementary and they would not have endured such disgusting and despicable acts.

Today another teacher at Miramonte Elementary was arrested and charged with acts of lewd conduct involving 23 students earlier this week – unrelated to Berndt.

These two teachers are not the first to be arrested for lewd sexual acts against children.

Many teachers across the country have been involved in child molestation. Some have been arrested and some have gotten away with their crimes against children because of insufficient evidence, because of cover ups, because no one was courageous enough to step forward and report their own abuse.

Take beloved teacher Steven Noyes of the Village School in Naples, Fl., a private school affiliated with the North Naples United Methodist Church, who has been accused of sexual abuse against one of his 9 year old female students at the school. The police investigated the case, but when the teacher in question didn’t cooperate, they dropped the ball.  The teacher was not willing to talk to police or take a polygraph test, returned to school, the head of the school Ginger Sauter was heard saying “This is all my fault, I shouldn’t have let him hug the children” and now the little girl, the innocent victim has been expelled from school.

So because the police dropped the ball, and no one has been brave enough to come forward to report other abuse by Noyes, could we be looking at Noyes  and other teachers who harm children becoming another Berndt in 18 years?

We must stop teachers from hurting our children NOW! We cannot wait 18 years to have them arrested.

Schools across the country must be more diligent in background checks. Perhaps teachers need to go through annual background checks. It would be unfair to the good teachers, but it would certainly take care of the bad ones.

We can no longer protect our teachers who commit these horrible acts against children. We should be protecting our most innocent – our children.

If you know of a teacher who is harming you, has harmed you in the past or who is harming other children it is your duty to report it. It is law enforcement’s duty to not let these cases get buried as a result of insufficient evidence or teachers not willing to cooperate. It is the school’s duty to ensure that their students are taught by teachers whose only agenda is to educate – not violate!

You can report child abuse here

 

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Did Joe Paterno Really Break His Silence?

As  Appeared In Psychology Today
Published on January 17, 2012

Co-Authored by Robin Sax, Ross Ellis and Angela Rose

How shattering the silence stops abuse

Joe Paterno “broke his silence on the Sandusky case since being fired from Penn State University.” Clearly not a tell-all nor a hard ball interview, Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post portrayed Paterno as a sympathetic, sick, frail old man who simply did the best he could.  Do you feel sorry for him?  Do you think he deserves a pass? Do you think his age, notoriety and illness is justification to the many victims who would not have been abused had Joe-Pa cared about him as much as he cared about himself, his team, and the school.

Denial, minimization, blame are the tenets of sexual abuse cover-ups and misunderstanding.  While Joe-Pa may not have known what to do then, he should be able to say I know what to do now.  The missing parts of the interview were the noticeably absent questions of:

  1. Did you ever confront Sandusky? If so, what did he say?  What did you say?
  2. What would you do if this happened today?
  3. When you saw Sandusky as recently as September 2011 did you think it was strange that he was still courting kids on campus?

A hundred more questions come to mind.

The value of Paterno’s silence breaker is that this gives us an opportunity to talk about sexual abuse– a subject that despite how progressed people think we are– is one that many would prefer to remain a silent subject. 

On Tuesday, January 17 on Fox 11 KTTV’s Good Day LA, Angela Rose shattered the silence of sexual violence by sharing her own story of overcoming being kidnapped when she was 17 years old and sexually assaulted by a repeat sexual offender who was on parole for murder. Although her case was perpetrated by a stranger, Angela stresses that sexual abuse is typically committed by someone who is known to the victim. The offenders prey on their victims using trust as well as silence and fear as a tool to continue to offend. Angela Rose founded the nonprofit PAVE: Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment and she is partnering with other groups to tackle this societal problem.

Child sexual abuse is a worldwide pandemic and prevalence rates are known to be as high as 60 percent. Sexual abusers tend to choose occupations that put them in close contact with children. They can be found in every profession. They are heterosexual and homosexual — they don’t discriminate.

While Penn State and Syracuse are now institutions that have been exposed, there are hundreds of other schools that work harder to cover up the abuse than simply expose it and deal with it.  In all of these cases, the pattern is the same when a child reports sexual abuse and when confronted with the investigation process— a process designed to be a fact finding process—the child is the one who is disbelieved, penalized, and blamed.  The children get victimized twice – once by the people they look up to and admire, and then again through the cover-ups of the perpetrators, and their colleagues.

Take a case that as not received the same attention as Sandusky or Fine.  It is the case of Steven Noyes of Naples Florida.  In April 2011, nine-year old Jane Doe reported that she was sexually and inappropriately touched by her fourth grade teacher Steven Noyes.  Not surprisingly, he denied all allegations and hid in the joy of being the “beloved teacher.”  While the school  initially suspended Noyes, it came out that he was doing report cards, continued official duties and even  communicated with children  and parents during his time on “admin leave.” It smelled of a BS admin leave with no real intention of looking objectively into the facts of the allegations.  The smell got worse when the school seemed to have conducted a shoddy (at best) internal investigation that  resulted not only in Noyes returning to school but culminated in the ultimate blow when principal Ginger Sauter suggested that the child leave the school with zero justification. So, like these other high profile cases the school seemed to practice their same protection for themselves instead of saying “mea cupla, we screwed up, and we are sorry.”

School and institutions have choices.  They can choose to pick denial, minimization and blame and live being more concerned about the institution, the school, and the teacher – or they can stop blaming the victim and protect the victim.

When the institutions protect abusers, they not only are allowing for rampant prolific abuse to continue but are sending the message for victims to stay silent because the adult and institution will always win.  Children are being taught that  horrific,  vile, and abusive behavior is acceptable  and that their words do not matter.

We are here to say victim’s words DO matter.  Their disclosures are critical.  The victim’s voices must be heard and we the growns up cannot be silent.  The fact that we even have to have laws of mandated reporting to order people in positions of trust to report is telling even and of itself.  The fact that those who work with children have to be mandated to tell is just troubling.   Do we really need a law to say “tell.”  Do we need to have laws to say do the right thing and don’t kick the victim out of school too?

We can no longer be silent.  We all have a responsibility to tell whether mandated by  the law or not.  We are the adults – and kids count on us to be vocal and stand up for our victims who will live with this pain for the rest of their lives.   In New York City, buses and subways are covered with billboards that say “When you see something, Say something!” We urge you to REPORT IT!  In workplaces and in the armed services there are hotlines given for anonymous reporting.  Whether duty bound by mandated reporting laws, we the adults should retrain our default to tell and to tell until someone does something.   The more silent you stay, the more children are hurt.

You can make a difference. Report! Advocate! Get involved and most importantly, tell.

Love Our Children USA: Love Our Children USATM is the leading national nonprofit and ‘Go-To’ prevention organization fighting all forms of violence and neglect against children in the U.S. Since 1999, Love Our Children USA has broken ground in preventing violence against children and eliminating behaviors that keep them from reaching their full potential. Love Our Children USA teaches effective parenting solutions and fosters kid success by creating valuable programs that empower positive changes in parenting and family attitudes, bullying and cyberbullying prevention, Internet safety and school violence prevention through public education.    The goal of Love Our Children USA is Keeping Children Safe® and strengthening families. www.loveourchildrenusa.org

PAVE: Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment is a multinational nonprofit that uses art, education and grassroots action to shatter the silence of sexual violence. www.ShatteringTheSilence.org

Robin Sax is a Fox 11 legal analyst,  California-based attorney and former sex crimes prosecutor, who has authored six books including It Happens Everyday Inside the Life of a Sex Crimes DA and Predators and Child Molesters:  A Sex Crimes DA Answers 100 of the Most Asked Questions.  http://robinsax.com/.  Robin Sax is a former deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County who specialized in child sexual assault cases. She is the author of Predators and Child Molesters.

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Teacher Accused of Molesting Student: Cover Up

  

When we send our children to school, we expect that the school, its principal, teachers and its faculty are going to protect our children.

Children are taught to respect and honor parental authority figures such as teachers, guidance counselors, and principals and not to question their actions. We trust our schools to protect our most vulnerable … yet children are being sexually molested by the very people who are supposed to protect them. Most abusers remain undetected and free to continue their abuse of power and violation of professional ethics.

It never enters into our minds that a “beloved” teacher would touch our children inappropriately or have sex with them.

The sad reality is that it does happen and it recently took place in Naples, Fl.

On May, 19th, Robin Sax, a California-based attorney and former sex crimes prosecutor, who is a frequent network TV commentator on high-profile legal cases and a national expert in child sexual abuse, and Jeff Herman, a nationally-recognized advocate for survivors of childhood sexual abuse filed filing of a new lawsuit against The Village School, a Naples-area private school affiliated with the North Naples United Methodist Church, for the sexual abuse of a 9 year old student at the school.   

The nine year old little girl was touched inappropriately by her homeroom teacher, Steven Noyes. The police investigated the case, but when the teacher in question didn’t cooperate, they dropped the ball.  The teacher was not willing to talk to police nor take a poly.
 
The parents are really amazing and brave. They are standing up for their little girl in the way every parent should not just by believing her but by doing everything right from  the first minute until now.  Obviously, they are devastated but remain strong and committed to what is right.

WHO BELIEVES JANE DOE?
 
A little girl comes home with a terrible secret, she’s just been touched by her favorite teacher; touched in a way she knows is wrong. What any one familiar with sexual assault will know is that this is was likely the beginning of the touching while the grooming of Jane Doe happened for months. 

Jane Doe does exactly what we teach our children to do. If someone touches you inappropriately – TELL someone. 
 
And that’s just what Jane Doe did. But what happened next has left her family hurt, angry and ready to fight for justice for this very brave little girl.
 
The injustice begins in a tight-knit Naples, FL community at a school dedicated to Christian values where Doe has been a student since kindergarten.  She is an outgoing, kind girl, who still to this day doesn’t even get the sexual nature of a breast touch as sex, and breasts even being sexual are not even on her radar. 

Her parents are the kind of people you’d want in your community, in your school, and as the support system to a traumatized kid. You want them as your friends. They are church going, softball playing, parents who take pride in their value-driven life. In fact, they chose Doe’s school because of its mission of, “educating the child’s mind, body, and spirit through Christian values in an ever-changing world.”
 
Since the day they told Doe’s story to the school, they’ve felt anything but Christian values. 
 
THE INCIDENT:

Just after Christmas break Jane Doe is in her homeroom class working on her math homework and gets stumped on a long division problem and asks her teacher for help. She goes up to her teacher’s desk, and that’s when it happens. 

As Doe tells her mother and father, the teacher began helping her with her first question. He put his hand under her dress and on her knee. Then, he reached his hand up her back and under her shirt, coming around the front to rub her chest.  He keeps his hand there while he helps her with three other math problems.

Afterwards, Doe thanks him and returns to her seat.
 
THE AFTERMATH:
The parents didn’t panic, but they did want answers. They approached the head of the school and heard her say, “This is all my fault, I shouldn’t have let him hug the children.”

Then things quickly turned from bad to worse. The school expels little Jane Doe (THE MOST EGREGIOUS PART OF THIS CASE!!)  The teacher, has refused to cooperate with police, has returned to his job.

PRIOR TO ANY LAWSUIT, attorneys made many attempts to simply get answers.  There was no desire to sue — just a desire to make sure there was a proper police and school investigation. While the police partially did their job, the school failed this family, and Jane Doe.  Attorneys tried to get information, and were told the only way to do it was to bring a case. 

Thus, THE LAWSUIT:

This is the story of a father who believes, and is standing up for his little girl. It’s about a mother who wants to make sure no other child goes through the pain and suffering her daughter has.  The goal in filing a suit is to get answers, to hold the school accountable, to make sure that this case is not simply swept under the rug.  It is our goal to have a safe forum for people to come forward as we know that there are likely other victims out there. 

Child sexual abuse has reached epidemic proportions in schools throughout our nation and has become an alarmingly frequent occurrence. The cases that are surfacing almost daily serve as a wake-up call to everyone in America to protect our children!

The teacher is by all accounts “beloved” and has a clean record. The same scenario goes for the “priests” who sexually abuse children and all of the other people who choose careers working with children, only to groom them and then sexually abuse them. That’s the typical M.O. of a child abuser.

We must seek justice for Jane Doe and her family – and for all of the other Jane and John Does who this happens to. 

To believe it can’t happen to us and our children – that no one we know would ever abuse our kids, and certainly not someone entrusted with their care or well-being — is to live in denial. Sexual abusers tend to choose occupations that put them in close contact with children. They can be found in every profession. They are heterosexual and homosexual — they don’t discriminate.

Covering up abuse in schools sends a message to the abuser that it is acceptable behavior. We must report the abuser and get help for the children. School boards must send a message that they care and accept zero tolerance.

Jane Doe should have justice. This never should have happened to her. She should not have been touched inappropriately by her teacher, nor should she have been told to leave school for telling the truth. 

Jane Doe’s claim must be corroborated. Local news comments are aimed at discrediting her and her family.

Steven Noyes lived with his parents in Maine and taught there. Subsequently he moved to Naples, Fl where he lives alone in his parent’s apartment and teaches at the Village School.

If you see something – say something! If you know something – report it!

We must start to protect our children instead of protecting the people who hurt them. We must protect Jane Doe!

If you know of a case like this in Florida – Report it to law enforcement and call Child Protective Services in Florida (800) 962-2873

If you know of a case like this in Maine – Report it to law enforcement and call Child Protective Services in Maine (800) 452-1999

Or you can call the National Child Abuse Hotline at National Hotline  1-800-422-4453

Ross Ellis
Child Advocate, Media Commentator
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Love Our Children USA

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