Pickets Seek Librarian's Removal after Sex Charges

By Sabrina Eaton
Plain Dealer [Cleveland, Ohio]
October 13, 1993

A group of 20 pickets demanding suspension of a North High School librarian who has been indicted for alleged sexual abuse of a former student faced off with district administrators, students, and parents last night outside the school's open house.

"It bothers us that people in charge of educating children are ignorant about sex abuse and think that abusers couldn't appear on the surface to be nice guys," said Josanne Kovaleik of Mentor-on-the-Lake, who carried a sign that said "Parents Protect Your Kids."

Many of the pickets said they were friends of Mary Hammond, a 37-year-old employee of the Rape Crisis Center in Cleveland, who filed a civil suit alleging Jerry Bals sexually molested her in the 1970s while she was a student at Lake Catholic High School.

The indictment on charges of felonious assault and gross sexual imposition involved a different Lake Catholic student during that time. Lake County Prosecutor Steven C. LaTourette said his office was investigating four more abuse complaints it received after Hammond's suit was publicized.

Bals, 52, declined comment on last night's picketing. He left Lake Catholic in 1983 and worked at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland before joining North High School in 1988.

A group of North High students who said they supported Bals heckled the pickets and removed leaflets they had placed on cars.

"Go home already," shouted tearful 10th-grader Nikki Nadock of Eastlake, who complained the protest was ruining the open house. "I've known Mr. Bals for a lot of years. He's a nice guy and I think he's innocent."

"Why would all these women lie?" protester Kay Fatica of Cleveland Heights asked her.

"Maybe they have something against him," replied ninth-grader Brian Brinkley of Eastlake.

North High School Athletic Booster Club President Don Moyer called the protest "a bit ridiculous."

"He's innocent until he's proven guilty," said Moyer. "An open house is for the kids and parents and not a place for this type of protest."

The protesters confronted North High School Principal George Spinner, whom they accused of protecting Bals by telling The Plain Dealer that he couldn't see Bals abusing students.

"Comments such as these stop victims of sexual abuse from telling of their victimization," said a leaflet they distributed.

Spinner said Eastlake police had already investigated Bals' conduct at North High School and urged pickets to forward any sex abuse claims to them.

Bals is on sick leave from the school after a kidney operation. Willoughby-Eastlake Superintendent Roger J. Lulow said district officials would meet with Bals when he recovers to "decide what's in the best interest of everyone involved."

The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland has temporarily removed Bals from duties as a deacon while the charges are pending, a diocesan spokesman said.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.