Albany school officials answered questions about Albany Middle School sixth grade teacher James Izumizaki's arrest, on suspicion of committing a lewd act upon a former student, and his apparent suicide during a press conference at Albany Unified School District on Tuesday morning.
Police have thus far declined to confirm the gender and number of alleged victims, but mental health officials said during the conference that "girls" made were involved with the allegations against the 28-year-old teacher.
Superintendent Marla Stephenson said her staff is focused on providing a safe environment for all students and helping them process their grief through counseling and mental health resources.
"Today is not business as usual," she said, adding that the school day would end at 12:30 p.m.
Though the main focus would be at Albany Middle School, students at all other school sites would also receive support.
She described the situation as "extremely complex and difficult."
"In order to protect students, we have to be incredibly neutral," she said. "Yet our middle school staff and our entire district has lost a colleague—a very popular colleague."
Joanne Wile, who is also the director of the Albany elementary school mental health program, said the district is concerned with all who are involved because this the situation would have an impact that would last a lifetime.
"There's so many different groups that need to be cared about," she said.
"We're concerned about the girls who made the allegations, the effect on them and their families," continued Wile. "And we're really addressing all of these different groups simultaneously."
Stephenson said Izumizaki was the school's athletic director and coached seventh-grade girls' volleyball and eighth-grade boys' basketball. He was also a co-leader in student government.
He grew up in the area, and attended the district's schools, according to Stephenson.
She said the events of this past week have "shaken us to the core
of who we are." However, she added, "We will recover."
Stephenson said the school district learned of Izumizaki's apparent suicide early Monday afternoon, and students were informed Tuesday.
She said Izumizaki had been placed on paid administrative leave after the alleged misconduct was reported last week. If he had been cleared of any criminal charges, she said, the school board would have conducted its own investigation before potentially hiring him back.
Stephenson said staff is working with Izumizaki's family, middle school staff and community on next steps regarding a memorial.
Prior to the press conference, parents and students gathered outside Albany Middle School this morning to mourn the death of Izumizaki.
Dozens of gathered in front of the school at 1259 Brighton Ave., in tears and sharing hugs with one another.
A makeshift memorial had been set up at the base of the school's flagpole, where people placed flowers and candles in honor of the teacher.
Izumizaki was arrested last Wednesday on suspicion of committing a lewd act on a minor under 14 after police began investigating a report that he had an inappropriate relationship with a former student at the school.
He had been booked into the Santa Rita Jail, but later was released on bail. His body was found in a car on Via Alamitos in San Lorenzo at about 10:30 a.m. Monday.
Alameda County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson said that, based on the nature of the death and a note that was left, it appears Izumizaki committed suicide.
Bay City News contributed to this report.
Albany Patch will upload taped video coverage of the conference this afternoon.
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