MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — A new regional group is promoting an event designed to help parents talk to their children and recognize signs of child sexual abuse.
Meanwhile, the criminal case against a former Springboro teacher accused of gross sexual imposition on 28 girls in his first-grade classes, which prompted organization of the event, moves forward.
On Aug. 20, lawyers for John Anthony Hopkins and his prosecutors are scheduled to hold a pretrial hearing in his case.
On Sept. 12, the Coalition to End Child Sexual Abuse (CECSA) and Child Advocacy Center (CAC) of Warren County are putting together a “Night of Empowerment for Protecting Our Children” at Atrium Medical Center.
“We all have to stand up and take ownership of protecting our children,” said David Dale, facilitator of a training session for parents planned during the Atrium event.
Dale’s session will lead to a panel discussion and question and answer session with the representatives from the CAC, Warren County Prosecutor’s Office, Child Protective Services and Warren County Sheriff’s Office.
“If we’re going to make cultural change, we can’t rely only on these service providers,” Dale said.
Dale said he reached out to the CAC after reading about the case filed against Hopkins, a Clearcreek Elementary School gym teacher facing 36 counts of gross sexual imposition alleging he sexually abused the 1st graders during class.
Hopkins, 25, of Springboro is on house arrest. His lawyers are pressing for the release of all video or transcriptions from interviews of the alleged victims by prosecutors or CAC specialists.
“This information is crucial to the defense in this case and may need to be reviewed by expert witnesses hired by the defendant’s counsel once all the evidence has been reviewed by counsel,” lawyer David A. Chicarelli said in a July 29 motion.
No trial has been scheduled.
Some parents of the alleged victims said they struggled to discuss child sexual abuse with their kids. They joined a push for changes in Ohio law and curriculum in local school districts to require sex abuse prevention education for the youngest students.
Dale is an authorized facilitator of Stewards of Children, a training program through Darkness to Light , based in Charleston, S.C.
He and other facilitators from the Dayton, Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region, and organizations formed CECSA and began working with Crossroads Church, with locations from Dayton to Northern Kentucky.
Since then the group has organized a Night of Empowerment at the Crossroads Church in Mason and brought in a speaker for an event at Crossroads Church on the east side of Cincinnati.
The training session beginning the Sept. 12 event at Atrium in Middletown will be a shortened version of the Stewards to Children course, aimed at parents.
The 45-minute session will focus on “how to have a conversation with children” about protecting themselves from child sex abuse and how to respond to “red flags”, Dale said.
Dale said the event would not include discussion of the Hopkins case.
“We are going to try to address that up front,” he said.
Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell and his wife, Amy, who manages the county CAC, supported the upcoming event.
“The idea from our office’s perspective is to provide general information and insight relating to ways to talk to your children to protect them from becoming a victim of sexual abuse,” Fornshell said. “I do not believe talking to parents about child abuse prevention compromises any case.”
Amy Fornshell said the CAC is working with CESCA to provide community outreach on child abuse prevention at the Atrium event.
Chicarelli declined to comment on the event.