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School District Focuses on Helping Students Cope Following Teacher's Death

Superintendent Marla Stephenson expressed the support being offered to students, staff and their families regarding the arrest and apparent suicide of 28-year-old middle school teacher James Izumizaki.

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.

RELATED

  • Video: District Holds Press Event After Teacher Death
  • California Launches Suicide Prevention Website
  • Arraignment Postponed for Teacher After 'Lewd Act' Arrest
  • Blog: Coping as a Community with Allegations of Sexual Offending
  • AMS Event: Having Difficult Conversations with Children
  • Parent Meeting Planned After Teacher Placed on Leave Following Alleged 'Lewd Acts'

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for updates about this story. 

If there's something in this article you think should be corrected, or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email albany@patch.com.

Susan October 02, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Blood is on Marla Stephenson's hands
Middle School parent October 02, 2012 at 08:30 PM
http://photos.mercurynews.com/2012/10/02/remembering-james-izumizaki/#name here
Jim October 02, 2012 at 08:34 PM
She had to report it was the law.
Frederic Pras October 02, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Do I have to remind people that our kids are reading these comments....so please behave like adults! The angry comments will not help our kids and community deal with the situation.
Holly White October 02, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Susan, that is beyond ridiculous and offensive. School district personnel are required by law to report suspicion of child abuse/neglect. It's called being a mandated reporter. It's an absolute tragedy that Mr. Izumizaki choose to take his own life, but our school district did what it is supposed to do. He made a choice and, while we may never know his reasoning, no one else is to blame for his actions.
Dawn October 02, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Susan, what would have had her do? If your child had come forward with an accusation of sexual misconduct against a teacher, would you prefer that Marla hide it (like the Catholic Church did for decades)? She was doing her job. Like another person said, please be aware that children are reading these posts.
You Enjoy Myself October 02, 2012 at 09:48 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQ9BozEN_LE This will not be forgotten but this will settle into the ocean of our lives, let yourselves ride out this grief like the wave it is. Death and crisis of this nature we never "get over" but rather, we lean to adapt and heal through a process of acceptance and forgiveness, that just takes a little time--and ultimately we become larger more thoughtful and mature beings, mindful of the fragility of life.. The strength of a community is not determined by its ability to avoid crises, but instead its ability to come together and and support one another in the face of it. Thank you for your gracious leadership, Marla Stephenson and the rest of the AUSD community, my heart goes out to all the people effected by this crisis, including the human being we have lost.
Susan October 02, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Imagine you are the best at something. You are the best at this not just because it comes natural to you, but because you pour your heart and soul into it every day. And this something is no just a pastime or hobby, but a purpose that contributes to the lives of others, is recognized by the community for its positive impact, and generally gives purpose to your life. Now imagine that, because of disturbing and unsubstantiated rumors, you find yourself labeled the lowest villain, thrown in jail, and regardless of the legal implications, effectively cut off from continuing your passion for the rest of your life. In the span of less than 24hrs you have gone from lauded local citizen to monster. You didn’t see it coming, and you can’t even begin to imagine why. Under such circumstances you’d have hoped that delicacy and diplomacy would have been implored, that your past reputation would count for something, and that a prompt, professional, and diligent investigation would bring facts to light and clear your name. Instead however, you find that your work, dedication, and passion are now only met with suspicion, and that the first instinct of your supervisors is to protect not the accusers, not the accused, but only their own careers. No, neither Stephenson, nor the police, nor any other individual took Mr. I’s life, but they very well backed him out onto the ledge.
Kathy A. October 02, 2012 at 10:59 PM
thank you for that link, MSP.
janet October 02, 2012 at 11:49 PM
I do wonder if it is common practice to arrest someone when the trail of evidence is clearly not in place, and question how this was handled by the police. I imagine further information will come out in the future. I do agree with "local parent's" take on the excellent leadership shown by mr. parenti and the ams staff. They have done an amazing job of notifying parents and providing support for students and staff. As I was looking at the memorial set up for Mr. I by the students, I wondered if anyone had an idea about how this type of support might be shown for the anonymous student who reported Mr. I? This girl must be suffering terribly, and it would be nice to somehow show support for her. Any ideas? Or is something like this at AHS already afoot?
ellen esposito October 03, 2012 at 12:44 AM
I'm not going to read all these comments. I am an Albany resident. Have no kids in Albany schools. My comment is why was this man's name and face publicized. what about innocent until proven guilty?
MQ October 03, 2012 at 01:29 AM
You can not blame or begin to blame anyone but Mr. I for taking HIS OWN LIFE. No one made him kill himself. It was his own selfish act. If he cared so much about his job and cared so much about contributing to the lives of others and was such a positive impact then why did he kill himself. You just described what sounded like a strong and well liked person, or what you called a "lauled local citizen". Only an extremely weak person would run and kill themselves after being "falsely" accused of something. But for the most part a guilty person would do such thing when the truth was beginning to surface.
CJ October 03, 2012 at 02:04 AM
To anyone blaming the superintendent, google "mandated reporter.". It is their job. It is the job of anyone working with children. And better to report something and find it was wrong, then not report abuse and thus have it continue. This has ended tragically for the teacher but let's not forget that it is never over for the accuser and students and other teachers.
Sue Somit October 03, 2012 at 02:14 AM
I agree with Ellen. In cases like this, whether the teacher is innocent or guilty, their careers are destroyed. The allegations are put on page one and the outcome, sometimes months later, are buried in the back of the newspaper. I had kids in Albany High School when allegations of sexual molestation were brought against Joe Cruz. The charges were later dropped, but Joe was forced to retire and our kids lost a great teacher. There has got to be a better way to get rid of bad teachers without destroying the good ones.
Middle School parent October 03, 2012 at 02:47 AM
http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=LeoCnpdheUY
MQ October 03, 2012 at 03:09 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SP_Bf3HMo8M&feature=plcp This might give some insight on what his relationships with his students were like. 0:14 , 1:14. I don't know of many teachers attending high school house parties. All of these kids are currently under 21 and most even under 18. *FACT*
Art Simon October 03, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Sorry Susan, you're wrong. I'm a teacher, and anyone in teaching knows how allegations of sexual abuse will be handled. You'll be immediately removed from the classroom, that's common sense. Ever since I entered teaching in the early 80s I've been repeatedly told, never be in a room with a student alone and the door closed. Don't give a kid a ride home alone in your car. Whether or not James is guilty of the charges, he would have known what would happen if such charges were made.
TJ October 03, 2012 at 03:42 AM
People don't know the facts. You can't assume that, because the man killed himself, that he was guilty. Reading the articles and the comments, a lot of people were quick to blame him and assume he was guilty. Once an accusation like this comes out, you can NEVER remove the thoughts in the back of people's minds. Perhaps he didn't feel he had the support, or that the people calling for his head would win despite his innocence. Living with the shame of being accused, especially if it was unjust, is enough to push anyone over the edge.
Won Aksomboon October 03, 2012 at 09:04 AM
MQ; Do you enjoy posting this same link and comment on every article pertaining to Mr. Izumizaki's allegations and death? How very mature of you. Regarding the video--it's a scripted video with a cameo appearance by Mr. Izumizaki portraying a neighbor, who comes knocking on their door to complain about excessive noise. So what if the music is of questionable taste? A former student asks a teacher to make an appearance in a homemade music video and he's suddenly "attending high school house parties"? Was he pouring alcohol for the kids to drink or grinding his crotch on some under-aged girls bottom? I didn't see any of that. I cannot vouch for Mr. Izumizaki's innocence, nor can I condemn him for his possible guilt. The FACTS have not all been made public yet and may never well see the light of day. Support should be shown for the accusers--the accusations may just be true and they be victims who have experienced a trauma that will affect them the rest of their lives. However, if Mr. Izumizaki is indeed innocent, what kind of effect does the attempt to paint him in a negative light have? Even if he did commit "lewd" acts, how does this help the victims at all? I've never experienced any situation where negative energy made anything better in the least bit.
Emilie Raguso October 03, 2012 at 10:13 AM
Analisa -- thank you for posting the two high-resolution YouTube videos of the morning session on Tuesday. Very illuminating and useful information.
BERKELEYPOET October 03, 2012 at 03:18 PM
I COMMENTED ONCE ON ANOTHER POST I FEEL LIKE I NEED TO COMMENT AGAIN...I'm an AUSD employee that was falsely accused last year. Even though the Police cleared me in less than hour after being interviewed, I was put on administrative leave working in the District Office until their investigation was complete. After their thorough investigation I was let back in the classroom but life wasn't the same. Staff, parents, and kids with whom I worked with for 10 years looked at me differently and it was painful. I even had a parent ask my supervisor if her child was safe around me. That killed me. If it wasn't for my spiritual practice and art I would of broken down. While the investigation was going on I was screaming bloody murder, I was considering going after the accused family for defamation of character. Suicide was not on my agenda, though I did experience deep depression as a result of the loss of trust due to the allegations. I know, yet I don't know what James went through. I know what it feels like to have a community you serve look at you like you're a molester. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. The district did nothing wrong with me nor James. I am also a parent and I would hope that my child is protected. We are mandatory reporters and our job is to make sure the kids are safe. It wasn't the District, the police, or even the goofy kid that accused me that depressed me.It was the Gossip. Words can heal or they can destroy choose them wisely with compassion
Vichy vetti October 03, 2012 at 04:42 PM
There is just tons of overwhelming support for James. I don't know, is it just me (as a parent) but I cannot stop thinking about the child in all of this!!! I know people loved James and l know folks liked his effort as a coach and teacher. But I keep getting this weird feeling that most people don't really care about the child. It's as if folks could care less for the student??? Am I missing something? Do you people have more love for a man than a child? Think about that when you write these comment that seem to make James larger than life who could possibly do no wrong or who can do wrong but is still loved anyway! C'mon people.
Analisa Harangozo (Editor) October 04, 2012 at 04:39 AM
No problem. The third should be there now as well. My apologies for having it take as long as it did.. technology wasn't on my side during the uploading process!
Robert Marshall October 04, 2012 at 05:05 AM
The name was part of the public record. As for the photo? I don't know the origin, but I'd hazard a guess it was from a Facebook profile, which had photos set to Global sharing. Nowhere has the Patch said he was "guilty" of anything.
Robert Marshall October 04, 2012 at 05:10 AM
You have now posted this same msg multiple times. And as someone pointed out, this was a rap video, NOT a high school house party drunk fest. While I think he showed poor judgment by being associated with that video, I doesn't show him drinking with the students, nor in any compromising positions.
Jk October 04, 2012 at 07:24 AM
Insufficient evidence. Lewd acts is very broad. The girl later dropped the "charges." Unfortunately it's hard to tell if anything actually went on.

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