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Department of Justice is investigating a presenter from the ‘Flutes around the World’ music program
Article updated at 10:02 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 3
By Allison Jarrell
Students in the Capistrano Unified School District and other school districts across Southern California may have come into contact with flutes that were contaminated with semen, according to statements issued by school district officials.
CUSD sent an email on Friday, Sept. 29, alerting parents that the district was notified on Thursday of a pending California Department of Justice investigation involving an individual who provided flutes to children during a music education program that may have been “inappropriately contaminated with the suspect’s bodily fluid.” The district specified that the suspect is not a district employee.
CUSD’s chief communications officer Ryan Burris said in the email correspondence that the suspect conducted the music program at some of the district’s school sites, but did not identify the schools in question. Burris said that as part of the program, “students may have received a flute made of PVC plastic piping and a single wine cork that they could decorate.”
“In an abundance of caution, we are asking all families who may have had children participate in this type of program either at school or within the community to remove these flutes from your child’s possession and place them in a sealed paper bag,” Burris stated. “The district is working with law enforcement to determine how they wish to have these collected, should they need them for additional evidence. Please do not bring these items to your school site.
Burris went on to say that it is not dangerous for families to keep the flutes in sealed paper bags, but “it would be inappropriate and unsanitary” for children to continue having contact with them.
“We understand this is deeply upsetting to our families and that you may be seeking more details than we can provide,” Burris said. “The California Department of Justice and the US Postal Inspection Service are continuing their investigation and we are not able to provide further details until they conclude this matter.”
Since the initial news of the potential contamination, other school districts have issued statements on their websites, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, Fullerton School District, and Saugus Union School District.
Some of the statements from other school districts divulged more specific information. Saugus Union and L.A. Unified officials identified the alleged “bodily fluid” as semen. And Fullerton School District’s statement identified the suspect as a presenter from the Flutes around the World music program, which was sponsored by the Orange County Philharmonic Society at those schools.
“We have been informed by the California Department of Justice that an individual, who presented music programs sponsored by the Orange County Philharmonic Society to fourth through sixth grade students at Golden Hill and Rolling Hills Elementary Schools during the 2016-2017 school year is under an ongoing investigation for sexual misconduct,” Fullerton School District officials said in a Sept. 30 statement. “Although presenters at our schools are never alone with children and are always supervised by a teacher or school staff, in an abundance of caution, this presenter will not return to the Fullerton School District. We were informed that this individual has worked in a number of school districts throughout California and we have no evidence to suggest any of our students are connected with the investigation.”
Fullerton School District officials said that while some other school districts had been asked by investigators to collect the flutes from the program, Fullerton School District checked with the Fullerton Police Department and the flutes from their program did not need to be tested or collected for the police department or Department of Justice.
Chantel Chen Uchida, vice president of marketing and public relations for the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, said in a statement that the organization is “shocked and deeply concerned by the allegations surrounding this program.” Uchida said the Philharmonic Society is “one of many arts organizations and schools sponsoring presentations of the Flutes Across the World program.”
“We care deeply about our community, and the children in our community, and we have immediately terminated our affiliation with this program,” Uchida said. “We will continue to fully cooperate with the ongoing investigation. For over 60 years, the Philharmonic Society has brought artistic and education programs to people of all ages in our community, and we remain committed to this mission.”
To view the full email alert from CUSD, read below:
Dear CUSD Families:
We were notified late yesterday by the California Department of Justice of a pending investigation involving an individual, who was not a District employee, who may have provided music education and programs at some of our school sites, other venues throughout Orange County and at school Districts throughout southern California. As part of this program, students may have received a flute made of PVC plastic piping and a single wine cork that they could decorate. We have attached a picture of these alleged flutes for your reference.
Today, we further consulted with law enforcement and were advised that these flutes may have been inappropriately contaminated with the suspect’s bodily fluid.
In an abundance of caution, we are asking all families who may have had children participate in this type of program either at school or within the community to remove these flutes from your child’s possession and place them in a sealed paper bag. The District is working with law enforcement to determine how they wish to have these collected, should they need them for additional evidence. Please do not bring these items to your school site.
The District is advised that it is not dangerous for you to keep these flutes in a sealed paper bag, but it would be inappropriate and unsanitary for your child to continue to have contact with it.
We understand this is deeply upsetting to our families and that you may be seeking more details than we can provide. The California Department of Justice and the US Postal Inspection Service are continuing their investigation and we are not able to provide further details until they conclude this matter.
We will update you further as we receive further communication from local and state law enforcement.
Chief Communications Officer