Flutes contaminated with semen may have been given to children in California schools, officials warn – The Denver Post


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Several Southern California school districts warned parents over the weekend that flutes and recorders given to children as part of a non-profit music program may have been contaminated with bodily fluids. At least one district specified that these fluids could be semen.

Local, state and federal agencies were investigating a male music teacher who visited schools in Southern California as part of a program called Flutes Across the World, according to updates from the Saugus Union School District , which serves the Santa Clarita area.

“The artist distributes a flute-like musical instrument made from PVC pipe or bamboo to students during a music class, and the allegation is that he contaminated some of these instruments with semen,” said Union Saugus superintendent Joan Lucid in an email to parents. Saturday. “These allegations are deeply concerning and I realize that they raise many questions.”

The California Department of Justice and the U.S. Postal Service were among the agencies investigating the program, the district said. Lucid said the children were never alone with the music specialist, who was not a district employee.

The Saugus District urged students who owned a Flutes Across the World instrument to place it in a paper bag and contact the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Office.

At least 13 school districts in Southern California have been potentially affected, the Los Angeles Unified School District said in a statement. LAUSD spokeswoman Shannon Haber said a school in the district may have been involved and parents have been notified.

“We will continue to provide updates to our families as they become available,” Haber said. “We are deeply disturbed by these allegations and remain committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all of our students. “

The Fullerton School District sent parents a similar notice on Saturday, indicating that a presenter of the program – through a partnership with the Orange County Philharmonic Society – had visited two elementary schools in the district in the past school year, hosting workshops with students from fourth to sixth. – grade students. The district said flutes from those programs did not need to be tested or collected, according to local police.

“Although presenters in our schools are never alone with children and are always supervised by a teacher or school staff, out of caution this presenter will not be returning to the Fullerton School District,” the district said. . “We have been advised that this person has worked in a number of school districts across California and we have no evidence to suggest that any of our students are connected with the investigation.”

As word of the investigation spread, CBS Los Angeles reported that many parents were feeling “sickened” by the news and turning the potentially contaminated flutes over to local law enforcement.

“My children brought these flutes home. They put their mouths on them and they play with these instruments, ”Tudy Balta, a relative from the Fountain Valley district, told the news channel. “And for someone to contaminate it with their bodily fluids, it’s disgusting. My children could have fallen ill.

Chantel Uchida, spokesperson for the Orange County Philharmonic Society, told the Orange County Register that the group sponsored the Flutes Across the World program in six classrooms in three years. They were one of many arts organizations to sponsor the program, she added – but would no longer do so.

“We are so shocked and disgusted,” Uchida told the newspaper. “We will take a step back from that. There are no plans to continue it in the future. “

https://twitter.com/FlutesAW/status/899700917414502402

It is not known what prompted the investigation or how school officials came to suspect the flutes may have been contaminated. The authorities did not name the subject of the investigation. There was no response to an email sent to the California attorney general’s office on Sunday.

John Zeretzke, the founder of Flutes Across the World, did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday, according to the Associated Press. The group’s website and Facebook account appeared to have been taken down on Sunday morning. However, a cached version of the site described it as an “international humanitarian organization” in which children make two flutes: one to keep and one to give to a child elsewhere in the world.

“Each flute is hand decorated, has a photo attached to it and inside is placed a personal handwritten note from the flute giver to his unknown flautist friend in another part of the world,” the website said. “They decorate a pair of flutes with symbols of peace, unity and healing. They learn to play music from various cultures by listening and watching, the oldest way to learn music and language in the world today.

The Californian group said it has, since its inception in 2009, held hundreds of workshops with thousands of children in the United States and around the world. He has led “Musical Missions” in Haiti, the Philippines, Honduras and Native American reservations, as well as “Flute Ambassadors” in Nepal, Africa and Southeast Asia. Flutes Across the World was planning to expand its program to Indonesia this year, the website said.

A group’s Twitter account remained publicly visible on Sunday. His last tweet was on August 21 and showed a series of colorful flutes allegedly sent from the United States to the Philippines.


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