A Response to Recent Events
Dear Parents, Volunteers and Supporters:
I’m writing in response to the recent disturbing news that a former employee in the Urban Concern After School Program was arrested on March 7 on charges of Gross Sexual Imposition. In an effort to be transparent and maintain the trust in our ministry that we have labored for many years to build, I will outline the significant events that took place.
On February 9, a parent of a student in Tori Holden-Turner’s After School Program class informed me that her child shared with her over the prior weekend that Tori had touched her bottom outside of her clothing three times during the previous week. The student was confident that the touches were not inadvertent even though they were brief.
The same day, I contacted Franklin County Children’s Services and placed Tori on leave of absence while we conducted a thorough investigation. The next day, I left a message with a police detective who had recently visited the school to see if she could assist with the investigation.
On February 13, we were able to identify surveillance video footage that appeared to show Tori in the gymnasium briefly touching the student on the bottom outside of her clothing during the After School Program. There were other adults and students in the room.
As a result of the student’s testimony and the surveillance video, I terminated Tori from his position. Later that day, Tori confessed to a third party that he had indeed intentionally touched the student, as well as two other students in a similar manner – on the bottom and outside clothing – during the same week of February 1. He commented that he was not sure if the two other students realized what he had done. Unfortunately, Tori did not reveal the identity of the two other students and then ceased contact with the third party and the school.
I subsequently mailed a letter to the parents of the students in Tori’s After School Program classroom to inform them of the allegations against Tori and his recent termination.
Meanwhile, Franklin County Children’s Services notified me that they had reviewed my referral and determined that they would not conduct an investigation at the time. Knowing that Tori had confessed to inappropriately touching two other students, I continued to pursue my contact at the police department. As a result of my contact with the police, they opened an investigation on or around February 25.
The detective interviewed the other students in Tori’s After School Program class and identified one other victim. At this time, we do not know who the third victim is. Based on Tori’s confession, the detective isn’t sure that the student even knows that she was touched.
I thank God that he brought these sad events into the light quickly and for the courageous student who spoke up. For several years, we have taught a curriculum called “Good Touch, Bad Touch” with the students at Harambee. The purpose of the curriculum is to teach students the kinds of touches that are inappropriate and the importance of telling a safe adult if someone does touch him or her inappropriately. I believe the brave student that came forward with the information about Tori did so as a result of the “Good Touch, Bad Touch” training and the parenting she receives at home.
I also thank God that he gave us wisdom to navigate this difficult situation. The one regret I have is that some parents learned of these events first through the media rather than the school. I want to apologize to the parents who were taken off guard by the sudden news reports this week.
Finally, I thank God for the outpouring of support from so many of you who have reaffirmed your appreciation for and confidence in the work at Harambee through this difficult time.
Moving forward, we will continue to teach the students the importance of reporting inappropriate touches. In addition, we have subscribed to an abuse avoidance training for all staff and key volunteers. And since the surveillance video played such an important role in this investigation, we have already installed more cameras. We are looking into installing several more cameras.
Please join me in praying for the students affected by these events and for the continued safety of all the precious children at Harambee. Also, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.