Sunday, 11 December 2011

Parents Often Miss Classic Signs of Sexual Predators

Parents of 3 girls who were molested by an Illinois school district and Peoria City employee have filed a $3 million claim against both the school and the city, alleging that officials failed to act on warning signs about the predator. The employee, Mark Johnstone who was convicted 2 years ago is currently in prison, serving a 19-year sentence for child molestation and attempted child molestation. This case illustrates how easy it can be for potential sexual predators to continue their abuse unchecked.

Johnstone worked as a groundskeeper at an elementary school, and also worked part-time to help run the city's summer recreation program. According to authorities, he had a clean background, and did well at both his jobs. His job reviews were very good. However, unknown to parents and school and city officials, he was also molesting young girls.

Questions about his behavior were first raised by young male students, who were aware of his preference for young girls. He often brought little girls gifts, and made them sit on his lap while he gave them candy. However, parents were only alerted to his behavior in June and August 2007, during the summer program when he allegedly molested a young girl in the copy room. Other incidents were reported during field trips with students. One of the parents reported these incidents to police in August 2007, and by then, parents had already raised concerns about his behavior with school officials.

Several city officials also had concerns about Johnstone’s behavior. Johnstone resigned from the school district in May 2007, but continued working with the city's summer program. He was placed on administrative leave from the city in September after the city received a complaint from a parent, alleging molestation of a child in August 2007. Now in their sexual abuse claim, the parents allege that the city and school district had enough information about the molestation, and took little action to prevent it.

Unfortunately, California sexual abuse lawyers often find examples of such behavior. A sexual predator takes a long time to ingratiate himself or herself into a community, and makes efforts to give people the impression that he/she is far from the type of person who would harm young children. Once predators have gained the trust of the community, they find it less likely that people will be inclined to believe complaints of sexual abuse against them. Parents, caregivers and schools however, must be quick to act on signs of inappropriate behavior as soon as these are reported.

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