Category Archives:Child abuse

Boy Scouts of America 'Perversion Files' Published, Reveal Incidents of Misconduct in Orange County

What began as a newspaper investigation unearthed several hundred descriptions of abuse within the Boy Scouts of America.

This Thursday, thousands of pages of secret “perversion files” kept by the Boy Scouts of America were made public. These files named 19 Orange County members banned from scouting over allegations of child sexual abuse. Previosly, 28 Orange County cases have been made public. Together, they total 47 Orange County cases.

The Scout files were released Thursday by order of the Oregon Supreme Court. They had been used in a court case there, brought and won by a plaintiff who alleged an assistant scoutmaster molested him in the 1980s.

The Scouts began keeping files on those suspected of abuse shortly after the group’s establishment in 1910, in a struggle to keep pedophiles out of its ranks. The Scouts said Thursday that the files, consisting of handwritten letters, memos from local leaders, police reports, and newspaper clippings, helped them track offenders and keep children safe.

Though there are numerous documented cases within the files, it is not clear whether the Scout leaders took allegations of abuse to the police in cases that occurred within Orange County. Deron Smith, spokesman for the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America, has said the Scouts now require all leaders and volunteers to report any instance of abuse to police.

The files hold specific instances of convicted child molesters and sexual offenders serving as Scoutmasters and working directly with children. The files feature cases that span two and one-half decades, from 1959 to 1985. They indicate that a convicted child molester once served as a local Scoutmaster, a registered sex offender worked with a Santa Ana Scout pack and a man later hospitalized as a “sexual psychopath” helped lead a Scout troop in Orange.

One Orange County scout leader, Kenneth Morgan Harper, was listed on the Megan’s Law website as a registered sex offender. Harper was sent to prison for child molestation more than 20 years after the Scouts removed him from a Buena Park troop for having a police record of “sexual perversion”.

Also the files indicate that any effort to keep the sexual deviants out of the Scouts were disorganized and lacked guidance. Within the files there exists at least on memo from a Scouting executive pleading for better guidance on how to handle abuse allegations.

This was the second big release of files detailing allegations of abuse within the Scouts. A set released in the early 1990s as part of another court case detailed nearly 1,900 cases from 1971 through 1991.

Former Boy Scouts still struggle to cope with the abuse they suffered at the hands of Scout leaders, and those who are willing to tell the stories of their abuse have come to feel abandoned by an organization considered a pillar of American society. If you have been a victim of sexual abuse, or have been accused of committing sexual abuse, it is important to have representation from qualified attorneys. The attorney at Don Ho Law, is deeply rooted in the Southern California legal community and has established relationships with several district attorneys and judges in Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties, which can make all the different in the success of your case.

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California Juvenile Dependency Court: Don't Take My Child

child abuse
(Photo credit: Southworth Sailor)

California dependency law deals with minors who have been abused, neglected and/or abandoned. When minors are mistreated at home, they need someone else to look after them. So the court steps in and makes the minor a “dependent child” of the court.

The objective of the proceedings is to protect children and reunify families when possible. At the start, the court will determine whether the allegations of child abuse or neglect are factual and whether the child should be removed from the home and made a dependent of the court. When it is not in the child’s best interest to be returned to the home, the aim of the court is to place the child with a non-custodial parent, relative, or NREFM (Non-Related Extended Family Member). If none of the above are available, the child will be placed in foster care.
Under California Welfare and Institutions Code 300, a minor can become a dependent child of the court when the minor:
  • suffered serious physical harm inflicted nonaccidentally by the parent or guardian
  • suffered serious physical harm or illness as a result of failure of the parent or guardian to supervise, protect or care for the minor
  • suffered serious emotional damage as a result of the conduct of the parent or guardian
  • has been sexually abused by a parent or othermembers of the household
  • was left without any provision for support
  • has been subjected to an act(s) of cruelty by the parent or a member of the household
The Dependency Proceedings
If you are involved in a juvenile dependency case, time is of the essence and specific actions must be taken. Unlike other court systems, the Dependency court must resolve your case extremely rapidly. If your child becomes a “dependent of the court,” the court will create orders for you, your child, and the social worker. The court creates these orders to protect your child and to preserve the integrity of the case.
  • Can I lose my child? If you are offered Family Reunification Services and fail to comply with the Court-ordered case plan, you may be at risk of losing your child.
  • Why is the court involved? The precise reasons are in the petition and other court papers you may have received. Read the petition thoroughly.
  • Do I need an attorney? You have the right to have an attorney represent you in a juvenile dependency case. You are permitted to reschedule your first court hearing for a short time so that you can  retain a private attorney. If you can’t afford a private attorney, ask the court to appoint one for you. If you have enough money, the court may ask you to pay the attorney’s fees.
  • What will happen in the first hearing? If your child was taken away from you, the judge will come to a decision at the first hearing if your child will be reunited with you until the next court hearing. Tell the social worker or your lawyer about any relatives the child can stay with until the next hearing. If the judge does not permit your child to be returned to you, it is typically better for the child to stay with family.
  • Will I be able to see my child? If your child is not returned to you, unless visits are considered detrimental, the Court will make a visitation order.
The Detention Hearing

Once Children and Family Services (“CFS” or sometimes “CPS”) are involved, this is the initial hearing.  If your child has been removed from you, the Court will determine whether your child should be returned to you under the Court’s supervision until the next court hearing.  If your child cannot be returned to you, you should advise the social worker and your lawyer about any relatives and/or Non-Related Extended Family Members who are willing to have your child placed with them.

The Jurisdictional/Dispositional Hearing
The proceeding at which the Court determines whether allegations of abuse or neglect concerning a child are true or not is called a Jurisdictional Hearing. This hearing provides the basis for state intervention into a family. The parents are entitled to a trial to prove or disprove the allegations as stated by the social worker’s petition. The standard for this hearing is very very low. Unlike a criminal court, where a person is found “guilty” “beyond a reasonable doubt”, the dependency court finds the petition “true” or “false” by a “preponderance of the evidence”.     To meet this “preponderance standard,” CFS is only required to show if the abuse or neglect is likely to have occurred (i.e. 51% likelihood that it happened).

The Dispositional Hearing addresses placement of the child, whether services will be offered to the parent(s) or guardian(s), visitations, etc.  Sometimes, the child is returned home under the Court’s supervision with the agreement from the parent(s) to comply with the Case Plan. Other times the child has to remain out of the care of the parent(s) while the parent(s) works on the case plan designed to address the issues that led to the removal of the child.

The Case Plan
The Case Plan tells the parent(s) what he/she needs to do to resolve the problems that brought the case before the Court. This plan may include:
  • a parenting program
  • a substance abuse program
  • a 12-step program (i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous)
  • random drug testing
  • a domestic violence program
  • an anger management program
  • psychological/psychiatric evaluation

In cases involving serious physical, sexual, emotional abuse, torture, or death of a child, CFS may recommend that a parent or guardian not be offered family reunification services designed to reunify the family.

Status Review Hearings

The Court is required to review the status of each dependent child regularly. These Review Hearings are held every six months. Prior to each review, the supervising social worker will prepare a report and discuss the recommendation with the parent. This report describes the services offered so far in the case, the parent or guardian’s progress on the case plan, and what additional services should be provided to the parent (if any are needed) to correct the problems which led to the removal of the child.

If the child was previously returned to the parent or guardian, the recommendation may be to continue the case under the Court’s supervision or dismiss the case.  If the child was not previously returned, the recommendation may be to return the child under the Court’s supervision, continue the parent or guardian’s services while the child remains out of the home, or terminate the parent or guardian’s reunifications services.  If the recommendation is to terminate services, the Court will either establish a Permanent Plan Living Arrangement for the child or set a hearing to establish a permanent plan for the child which may include termination of parental rights or guardianship for the child.

Important Things to Remember

  1. Time is of the essence!  The Court will not make a child wait for the parent or guardian to get their act together.  If there is a child under the age of three (3) at the time of removal, the parent or guardian may be limited to only six (6) months of reunification services.  If all the children were over the age of three (3) at the time of removal, the parent or guardian may receive upt ot twelve (12) months of reunification services.
  2. The social worker can explain how the process works.  But remember that the social worker is not necessarily looking out for your best interests and cannot give you legal advice.  If you have questions about your rights, contact a Juvenile Dependency attorney as soon as possible!
  3. Stay in constant contact with your social worker.  Keep the social worker updated regarding your current whereabouts and your progress on your case plan.
  4. You must tell the court and the social worker where to mail you documents about your child. If you change your mailing address, you must tell your social worker immediately.
  5. This may be obvious, but maintain as much contact as possible with your child!  Make sure to attend all visitations that are offered to you.
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Conspiracy of Silence in LAUSD

Los Angeles Unified School District
Image via Wikipe

The entire Los Angeles Unified School District is under a critical public eye. 


Following allegations of abuse, a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles was arrested.  The outrage was only compounded when a second teacher at the same school was also arrested on charges of sexually abusing children.  Then came news reports that two aides at the school had been fired after being accused of abuse, and that one had been sentenced to 15 years in prison. 


Around the same time, allegations surfaced at other schools in LAUSD: a high school music teacher was removed after being accused of showering with students; a third-grade teacher was being investigated for more than a dozen accusations of sexual abuse; an elementary school janitor was arrested and accused of lewd acts against a child.  Most recently, a high school softball coach and special education teacher was arrested on charges of sending inappropriate messages to children over the Internet. 
While there is no evidence to suggest that these abuse accusations are connected, such occurrences have raised fundamental questions regarding the way the district monitors its employees and responds to reports of abuse.

Most of the attention has been on Miramonte Elementary School, where two teachers have been arrested and it is likely that dozens of students were abused over several years.  Many of the students are children of Latino immigrants, and some worry that parents were reluctant to report the allegations to the police because of their legal status.


Mark Berndt, 61, who has taught at the school for 32 years, has been charged with committing lewd acts on 23 children aged between six and 10.  Martin Springer, 49, has been charged with three felony counts of lewd acts upon a child. 


After their arrests, many parents at the school said that they were worried for the safety of their children and that administrators had failed to fulfill their basic responsibility.  


District superintendent John Deasy, responded by replacing the entire Miramonte staff and shutting the school for two days. It has been noted that the rapid removal of a school’s entire staff is unprecedented nationally.  The old staff will remain at an unopened school until investigations by the sheriff and school district are completed.


There are allegations that the school fostered an environment conducive to child sex abuse, with its lax supervision policies and negligent response to reports of alleged child molestations, pedophiles were able to abuse children for years without facing any or little consequences.  The school had received reports of sexual abuse for several years but failed to take such reports seriously and failed to investigate to any of the allegations.  In fact, some of the reports never reached law enforcement, a violation of the California penal code   some individuals are required by state law to report suspicion of child abuse.   A firm response to earlier reports or more active supervisory practices could have prevented the sexual abuse and predators like Berndt and Springer may have been taken out of the school system much earlier.


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