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How Significant is the Community Split Over Izumizaki Case?

In an article published over the weekend, the Contra Costa Times explored the range of reactions to the arrest and death of Albany Middle School teacher James Izumizaki.

Divisiveness is common in a community when a popular adult is accused of abusing minors, the head of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation told the Contra Costa Times, according to a story published online Saturday.

The article honed in on Albany Patch reader comments to illustrate the split in the community. Is that a fair measure of the level of divisiveness? Readers, do we have a serious split in the community, or is it too early to assess given how the story evolved from a single allegation against James Izumizaki to his suicide to the police saying there may have been multiple victims?

In the Times story, Miller said a divided community can be troubling for the victims.

"This is so horribly traumatic for the victims to see this kind of response and to see this adulation of the teacher," Miller told the Times in the article, which was headlined "Albany teacher suicide, molestation arrest split community."

"Oftentimes they are award-winning teachers or very popular teachers and that's how they mask the demon inside," she said. "The community doesn't know that side of him; only the victims have seen that side of perpetrators."

Lisa Park October 08, 2012 at 03:38 PM
I'm glad the Patch is asking questions, that we're all asking questions and sorting out what has happened here. I think all the input is good, so much better than letting it smolder unexamined.
Ellen Davis October 08, 2012 at 05:30 PM
"You're only as sick as your secrets" is true for a community as well as individuals. I think that as more information about Mr. I's activities is revealed it will be easier for the healing to progress. We all need to learn more about human failings and how to recognize motives. As tragic as this event is, there must be something positive to be learned.
ellen esposito October 08, 2012 at 05:43 PM
OK> maybe he did, maybe he didnt. but again I say, what about innocent untill proven guilty, and also, did he loose all rights to privacy when he was accused. I dont understand why his picture and name were all over the place, before anything was proven.
Bruce Dixon October 08, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Because the guy was a sexual predator that liked to prey underage girls? Unlike you, Ellen, my sympathies are with the abused children who, after coming forward, see ignorant people defending their abusers. The guy gave up any right to privacy when he decided to abuse children and I commend him for saving society the costs of a trial.
Anonymous October 08, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Just me!, a scab is something you get from falling off your bike. You may pick it, but it does eventually heal, and you later may even have a funny story to recount. For victims of abuse, there is no funny story to tell. It is a scar (not a scab) that you live with for life. And many don't speak about it because of the humiliation and judgment they could face when the ones they trust might think they are making it up, or that they are somehow at fault. Parents try to only have their children around people they trust. So if something does happen to them by those trusted and involved in their life, there is already a conflict. If a child tells someone about it, there is already someone (or many according to this sad occurence in Albany) wondering if a child is trying to maliciously destroy someone's reputation. Really? That is what you think a child's agenda is? So few speak up. Even I only do so anonymously. I support and applaud the ones who are brave enough to tell their parents, teachers, and authorities. These children are the ones who should be getting words of support. Words of support not just for them -- but also for any future victims who might feel that their speaking up could cause them even more harm than they have already suffered. I have two children now and you best believe I will take their word if they ever confide in me that someone has violated them in this manner.
Winifred Owen October 08, 2012 at 07:29 PM
All of the above comments have some validity in them. But we are now simply rehashing what has already been said, and that does nothing to heal the community. Since no new information has come to light, there is probably not much more that can (or needs to be) said at this time. The question about how significant the community split is cannot best be answered in this forum or at this time. We each have our own opinion. Let's do what we always have done in Albany - learn and grow from an experience however we can, and then get on with our lives. Relatively few Albany residents are on Patch. Let's not give in to outsiders from AOL/HuffPo (i.e., Patch) trying to extend the sensationalism of this tragedy simply because sex sells. Time to move on - at least as far as Patch is concerned.
Steve White October 08, 2012 at 07:53 PM
A challenge to readers: Can you give me one good reason the Albany Police can not release a detailed report of what happened? No names or significant identifying information but details such as "A 13 year old girl, an A student, accused Izumizaki and we investigated. The investigation lead to another A student who made similar allegations, we found love letters in his house" OR, alternatively, "a D student who was going to be sent to military school if her grades did not improve said her problems with truancy and juvenile delinquency started with sexual abuse by Mr. I, after we investigated another student said he sometimes said things which made her uncomfortable" OR, WHATEVER THE FACTS ARE. Police secrecy is for North Korea not North California.
Anonymous October 08, 2012 at 08:03 PM
I think the only thing we need to know at this stage is whether or not the suicide letter contained any admission of guilt or not. Whether a student is an A student or a D student should not have a thing to do with it.
Senior A. Titude October 08, 2012 at 09:01 PM
There are two issues here. First, the grades of the accuser are irrelvant. "A" students have been known to cheat and low grades do not equate to low character. Second, WE have no rights to any further information. The parents of the teacher, the family of the accuser, yes. Since a minor was involved, the facts should remain sealed. Other than to feed prurient interest, additional information is only going to give some in the community the opportunity to say "I was right" and shock others. But it doesn't change anything - the lesson learned is we need to be vigilant, in touch with our kids, and teach our children that adults should not be hanging out with them as peers. It's time to move on - that's the only direction closure exists.
Vichy vetti October 09, 2012 at 03:18 AM
I agree, let the papers and the investigators continue their work in this case and publish it as they go. You see, there are many people in this community that live in denial. I'm appalled by all the comments, the naive students of Albany, the parents, the vigil, and all the dramatic details about how cool James was. Don't give him a vigil give him guts! He had an inappropriate relationship with a student. I have said this many times- the poor child. Although the student is not excused for their behavior. The student probably thought it was cool at the time and didnt know any better. Children, after all, are impressionable. But it's not so cool now and James should have known better!!
Jim Kirkpatrick October 09, 2012 at 01:11 PM
I moved to Albany in 85, as is true for many, we came here for the schools. We stay here for many reasons, including the connection I feel with many neighbors, friends, parents of my children's friends, my adult children's friends, and merchants. We have disagreed and strongly, emotionally reacted to many events over the past 27 years. I am grateful we have a forum to express ourselves and i do not feel split off from my own strong opinions and feelings about this tragic series of events. I feel empathy for all. I do not feel split off from those who have my thoughts or feelings or who are different from me. Over the years I continue to hope we as a community will come together to identify best practices to create a safe, healthy, and enriching community for our youth. At this moment I hope there will be an exhaustive examination how our practices and policies do and do not promote this kind of community for our youth. Examine our practices in our homes, schools, police and all who are in contact with youth.
Concerned Citizen October 09, 2012 at 05:55 PM
In this and your prior posts you to ignore the fact that a Superior Court Judge issued a search warrant and an arrest warrant in this case. Both warrants require a finding of probable cause. That should be sufficient to assure you the police acted appropriately in conducting an investigation and making an arrest. As the Police Chief points out once the arrest warrant was signed by the Judge the police were required to make an arrest. Despite what you see on TV these warrants require detailed factual affidavits. You will have to contain your salacious desire or your apparent distrust of the police because the Court sealed the warrants to protect the victims.
Avi Jacobson October 09, 2012 at 07:08 PM
First of all, I think it's important to read the Times article and evaluate what Ms. Miller actually said, which I suspect may be poorly paraphrased here in the Patch. I think the deeper question is not whether our opinions are divided as to how the James Izumizaki case has been (and continues to be) handled. I think that within any community, it is a positive sign that opinions are divided -- even strongly divided -- because that is a sign of pluralism, diversity, and a richer marketplace of ideas. As long as we temper our differences of opinion with tolerance, compassion, and empathy for those whose opinions may differ from our own, I believe this diversity is a good thing. Yes, it is certainly traumatic for the victims to see community support for their alleged abuser, as it is equally traumatic for the friends and family of the alleged abuser to see him tried posthumously in the media and condemned by community members when the facts were never established. I think dialogue is part of our community's healing process. As long as it remains respectful and compassionate, I believe it is a better alternative than cold, bitter, distanced silence. I feel great compassion and sorrow for the victims of abuse, whom I consciously choose to believe, because as defenseless children I must give them the benefit of the doubt. I also feel great compassion and sorrow for those who have lost a friend, teacher, colleague, and family member, and who may never know the full truth.
Sue Somit October 09, 2012 at 07:10 PM
As the mother of a daughter who just received her diploma in Early Childhood Education, I have a question about school policy. I'm sure we're all wondering what happened and why James Izumizaki took his life. In cases like these, we probably won't find out for months, if ever, but I was wondering what happens to teachers who are accused of "crimes against minors." Do you know what the school policy is when an accusation is made and if there is any support for the teacher that has been accused? I understand why the minor's information is not given to the public, but I would like to know if teachers have some kind of representation until a police investigation is completed, or if they are just on their own.
Avi Jacobson October 09, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Vichy vetti, your statement that "the student is not excused for their behavior" seems to be a classic case of blaming the victim. The alleged victim was 13 years old or younger, a child. The alleged act was committed "upon" that child, and the framers of that legal definition chose the preposition wisely. The molestation that is suffered by the victim is not a "behavior"; it is a state that is inflicted upon them.
Emilie Raguso October 09, 2012 at 08:41 PM
I checked in last week with several members of the Albany Teachers Association on this, and they declined to comment. Definitely a good question for future follow-up! I'm curious to know the answer as well.
Avi Jacobson October 09, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Where do I start? If the police announced to the public every time someone made a complaint about someone, we would have droves of people making unfounded complaints against people whose names they wished to tarnish, and droves of lawsuits against the police for releasing the details of the complaints. There is no relevance to whether the student was an A student or a D student, and releasing this information would serve no purpose but to prejudice the public. "Love letters"? Could a perfectly upstanding, appropriate, professional teacher who was the object of an adolescent crush not receive love letters? "A student said he sometimes said things that made him uncomfortable" is another vague statement that would serve no purpose but to prejudice the public. By nature, much of the information that will be gathered in this investigation will be circumstantial, hearsay, and possibly ambiguous. In my opinion it is wise of the police not to release any of this initial information until it has been properly evaluated, in order not to further hurt those on both sides: the victims and their families, and the surviving friends, family, and colleagues of the accused.
Steve White October 09, 2012 at 09:54 PM
The point of the D student who was going to be sent to military school: It's just an EXAMPLE of a reason a student has to falsely accuse a teacher. Maybe not a great example but good grief, read what I wrote before reacting to it. It's really very clear. To the 3rd response: you can CLAIM the records are being kept secret to protect a minor or minors, but since I pointed out one can release a general narrative of events without names, that is not really a meaningful response. Third point: PRURIENT interest? no, someone got arrested, and the point is, were they arrested correctly? And we don't know right now, because we have no information. Fourth -- probable cause for a judge to issue warrants? Again, did the cops twist facts, did the judge make a good decision? I can't assume judges are infallible as you do. Avi -- you've got problems with reading comprehension -- I did not say the cops should release all records of complaints. In this case, someone was arrested and charged with a very serious crime. THAT is the police/court system action I want to have subjected to citizen review. This is a dangerous area. On the one hand the police feel intense pressure to act, so they may go ahead with arrests even when they feel doubt of the accusations. Adding to the danger, they know they have a lot of leeway, generally, to back out of their actions with "we can't release any information because a minor is involved" Asking for explanations is good citizenship.
Vichy vetti October 10, 2012 at 02:23 AM
Avi- not blaming the child but there is a level of responsibility that the child unfortunately has to own up to. But I hear your concern.
Ira Sharenow October 10, 2012 at 02:50 AM
http://www.sfexaminer.com/news/2012/07/protecting-teachers-hurts-students http://cal-catholic.com/wordpress/2012/07/17/california-teachers-union-kills-anti-pedophile-law/
Anonymous October 10, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Vichy vetti, you are wrong! A child has no responsibility to own up to when being violated by an elder.
Kelly Anne October 10, 2012 at 03:20 AM
A child under the age of 14 is a victim and as Anonymous stated above, the responsibility does NOT lie with them. I say again, I have never before seen a community so hesitant to wholeheartedly support the victims of sexual abuse. "There but for the grace of God go I." What if it had been your daughter? Have any of you been sexually abused? Do you see what damage your vigils and accolades for this man have done? Next time a child is abused, do you think he/she will feel safe telling an adult?
Rich L.A. October 10, 2012 at 05:38 AM
To "Anonymous", Kelly Anne: I don't think the age makes a difference if one is a victim. How do women feel when they hear, "Oh, she brought the attack on herself because of the way she dressed?" A 22 y/o getting raped, a 58 y/o getting sexually assaulted, it doesn't matter the age--a victim is not responsible, OTHER than the victim does have the responsibility to tell the truth. That also transcends age. Whether one is 14 or 8 or 96 y/o, the truth needs to be told or discovered. No one gets a pass on telling the truth regardless of age. And that unfortunately is what we don't have yet. A child saying it doesn't make it true anymore than an adult saying it. No question the initial benefit of the doubt should go to a reported victim or a child or one who otherwise was/is in harm's way. But the benefit of the doubt is not the same thing as the facts or the truth, and it does not equate to the other party being found guilty.
Vichy vetti October 10, 2012 at 05:23 PM
I think most of you who think I'm wrong are only looking at my point that there is a level of responsibility of the child. Whether it be a minuscule amount of responsibility given that a child is involved... There's still a level of responsibility. There's more to this story- and parents have to have honest and responsible conversations with their children. Many levels of responsibility . Grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters. We all have to be responsible and teach responsibility. Each one, teach one. My daughter could have been in the same position because she was on these teams that James coached. But I trust that the life lessons as
Vichy vetti October 10, 2012 at 05:26 PM
parents that we instilled in our daughter. Things would have been different.
Albany Parent October 16, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Vichy, Your trust is misplaced. The child is a victim. Do not attempt to mitigate the actions of a monster like Izumizaki.
Albany Citizen October 22, 2012 at 06:54 AM
Vichy is not narrow minded, however, the rest of you are. How do you know that James did anything to hurt the minor? She could have thrown herself at him. Yes, a child can behave in certain ways. Now, of course it would have been his fault that he was receptive, if that be the case. But how do you know what actually happened? No. I know, from personal experience, that James NEVER would do anything to "victimize" his, as the law puts it, "victims". He certainly never "abused" me.
Albany Citizen October 22, 2012 at 07:04 AM
How do you all know what happened? How can you jump to the conclusion that the "victims" have been victimized? You can't. I know, for personal experience, that James would have NEVER "hurt" his, as the law calls them, "victims". What if they wanted it? What if, yes, in their 13 year old age, threw themselves at him? Children are capable of such behavior, believe me. I know, regardless of what the law says, I was NOT "abused" by James Izumizaki.
Albany Student October 30, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Exactly. I'm sick and tired of people calling them victims when they're walking around at school, laughing and acting as if they don't give a crap about how someone died in relation to what they did. It's horrifying and disgusting. One girl, who apparently confessed later on, wrote multiple posts on the facebook group that was made in memory of Mr. I. She sounds obsessive and unusual. The other girl, who said aloud in front of everyone that it was her and spread those rumors about herself, still walks around like nothing has happened. If something like that happened to me and I was a "victim", I wouldn't have the guts to go to school when he first was arrested. And then his death? I would be terrified and feel at fault, or something of that sort, definitely NOT laughing away and walking around like it was nothing! They're not victims. They are ridiculous, ignorant, obnoxious, selfish girls.
Mary Savannah March 14, 2013 at 01:44 AM
I wonder if any of the people who attacked the victims back in October feel stupid now that there are VIDEO IMAGES of Mr. I's CRIMES. It was also found (as in, EVIDENCE was gathered) that he had collected child pornography (aside from the images he made of his victims). By the way, I was someone who felt Mr. I should not be attacked in the media before any *proof* came out. But it's just sick, the way some of you went for the jugular with regards to these girls...

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