East Coast molest case turns local

Date: 2002-02-05
Source: Sentinel

February 5, 2002
East Coast molest case turns local

Sentinel Staff Report

SANTA CRUZ — A former Santa Cruz educator, facing allegations of improper conduct with a 15-year-old boy in Massachusetts, told Santa Cruz police in 1996 that he twice had sexual relations with boys.

The admissions are part of a report Santa Cruz police released last week to a Massachusetts newspaper but will not make public here on the city attorney’s advice.

The report details the Santa Cruz Police Department’s 1994 and 1996 investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct by Traveling School International founder Stephen Myers.

Santa Cruz police Sgt. Steve Clark confirmed Monday the report includes an admission by Myers that he had sexual relations with a teen-age boy while visiting South Africa on a Traveling School excursion in 1991 and that he had been in therapy to control his attraction to boys.

Santa Cruz City Attorney John Barisone said, based on his reading of the penal code, the report was mistakenly released to the Massachusetts newspaper.

The code he cited allows police to keep reports of child abuse confidential, with certain exceptions.

"I don’t see any reason to compound an erroneous violation of the law," Barisone said.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette published a story Monday based on the Santa Cruz report. It was part of the paper’s investigation into allegations that Myers, while principal of Amherst Regional High School in Amherst, Mass., asked a 15-year-old male student to bare his breast.

Myers, who ran the Santa Cruz-based Traveling School from 1990 to 1999, is under investigation by the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, which took custody of his 8-year-old son last month, and the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office in Amherst.

No charges have been brought in connection with the Massachusetts investigations or the earlier inquiries in California.

Clark said the 1994 investigation was prompted by complaints from local parents about photographs taken of students in their underwear. Myers told police the photo sessions were part of a "body awareness day."

Myers’ explanation combined with different rules regarding child pornography at the time probably explain why no charges were filed, Clark said.

Two years later, while Myers was attempting to adopt a 4-year-old Romanian boy, the alleged victim of a 1980 molestation in Colorado contacted police in an effort to prevent the adoption, Clark said. During that 1996 investigation, Myers admitted to the 1980 and 1991 incidents, Clark said.

The adoption was denied, but Myers wasn’t charged in either case because the statute of limitations had expired in the first case, and the second occurred outside the jurisdiction of local authorities, Clark said.

According to the Gazette story, Myers later adopted a son in Colorado, where Myers was the principal of a charter school for part of 1999 and 2000 before moving to Amherst last year.

A third allegation that surfaced during the 1996 Santa Cruz investigation was not prosecuted after discussion among police, the District Attorney’s Office and the alleged victim’s family, who declined to cooperate, Clark said.

"An investigation this personal sometimes does more damage to the victim to pursue the matter than we would gain," he said.

Myers’ lawyer was unavailable to comment Monday.

District Attorney Kate Canlis said her office has no record of any local investigation. Superior Court Judge Art Danner was district attorney at the time. He was not in the office Monday.

The Traveling School was founded as a Santa Cruz City Schools summer program in 1984. Myers started the program after working three years as principal of Branciforte Junior High. In 1989, the district dropped the program as a cost- cutting move. Myers then served as assistant principal at Soquel High School for a semester before launching Traveling School as a private venture in 1990.

The school, which also was known as the Global Youth Academy, took high school students to countries across the globe for months at a time. It also hosted foreign students in Santa Cruz.

The school closed for financial reasons in 1999.

Contact Donna Jones at djones@santa-cruz.com.


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