College Trustees Urged to Fire Teacher

By Tim O'Neil
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
November 16, 2007

A woman told St. Louis Community College trustees Thursday that they should fire the music director at the college's Meramec campus, a man she says sexually abused her nine years ago when she was a high school student in California and he was one of her teachers.

Sarah Gray, now 27, called the teacher, Larry Stukenholtz, "a sexual predator and a danger to your community."

Gray attended a board of trustees meeting with David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. Clohessy urged the board to fire Stukenholtz or suspend him immediately.

Earlier Thursday, SNAP delivered to Community College headquarters a copy of a sworn statement in which Stukenholtz's former boss in California confirmed his resignation in 1999 over allegations of sex with a former student. The institution said it would investigate. "We will collect all the facts for a thorough understanding of this situation," said Pat Crowe, college director of communications. "We take this matter seriously and are going to do our due diligence."

Crowe said she did not know what could result from the review. Stukenholtz continues to work at Meramec, where he has been employed since 2001.

Reached Thursday, Stukenholtz said, "I'll be happy to (comment) once this is done. The college is backing me completely."

In 2006, when the lawsuit was filed in California, he denied the allegation and said he left Mater Dei High School, a coeducational Catholic school in Santa Ana, Calif., only to change jobs.

Gray went with SNAP leaders Thursday to present copies of the deposition of Patrick Murphy, president of Mater Dei. In the deposition, taken Sept. 17, Murphy says school officials interviewed Stukenholtz and Gray. Murphy said he determined Stukenholtz had "inappropriate sexual relations with a former student." He said Stukenholtz was asked to resign and otherwise would have been fired.

Efforts to reach Murphy or a Mater Dei lawyer were unsuccessful.

On Oct. 5, the Catholic Diocese of Orange County agreed to pay $6.7 million to settle lawsuits, including Gray's, that accused Stukenholtz and three other employees of schools or parishes of having sex with underage girls during the 1990s.

Gray is a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She said she was 17 and a member of the Mater Dei choir, then directed by Stukenholtz, when the sexual contact took place in 1998.

No criminal charges were filed. She said Thursday that she didn't file a complaint with the Fullerton, Calif., police department until after the settlement was reached. A police spokeswoman there confirmed receiving the report on Oct. 17 and said it was under investigation.

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