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April  28

Update on Art Teacher Case

The Glen Ridge Paper reported this week that charges may be dropped against Jerry Juzdan, the Glen Ridge elementary school art teacher accused two years ago of inappropriately touching a male student. According to the story, Juzdan, who asked for and received a leave of absence for the remainder of the school year, is applying for a "pre-trial intervention program," which might allow him to avoid indictment.

His lawyer, however, says that doesn't mean Juzdan did anything wrong.

In a recent phone interview, [Juzdan's attorney Timothy] Smith reiterated his position on the case, saying of the accusers, “These people are fanatics. This is a witch hunt.”

Smith said Juzdan will never accept any admission of guilt or any condition which stays on record as such.

“He will never admit to guilt because he did nothing wrong,” said Smith. “He has passed four polygraphs, two issued by the government. They have no case and they know it.”

A reader wrote us earlier this month to tell us of Juzdan's sudden departure from Linden Ave. School. Juzdan requested a leave of absence around the same time that parents learned that the librarian was going on extended medical leave. Our reader forwarded a letter she sent to school principal Joseph Caravela.

From speaking with my daughter, it seems that no one from the school has shared any information regarding these teachers' absences with the students. The kids are no doubt confused and feeling some sense of loss at this point. What, if anything, is being said to the kids?

Caravela's reply suggested that nothing had been explained to the kids, but that the principal would talk to classes once replacements were found.

The issue of the accusations against Juzdan is a divisive one in Glen Ridge. Because he has taught every public school student in the primary grades for years, almost everybody in town knows him and most like him. Many of his biggest supporters are parents with older children and no current links to the primary grades. Reportedly, school officials have required an aide to be with him ever since charges were made.

Juzdan is accused of having put his hand under a six-year-old's shirt and rubbed the child's stomach.

April 28, 2006 in Controversy | Permalink


Jerry Juzdan is a special person. He is a wonderful primary art teacher, a talented artist who donated his works to Glen Ridge silent auction fund raisers (we have one) and a sensitive and compassionate individual. The children and I received a hand written sympathy note at my husbands death 2 years ago that was heart felt.
I did not know until much later that when he wrote us that note, he was already undergoing his own serious problem.
I wish to give him my family's unqualified support.

Posted by: drDonna | Apr 28, 2006 9:28:18 AM

Hmmmm, I would think you would understand that ALL types of people can be guilty of abuses against children, including those who are capable of sending a "hand written sympathy note."

Supporting someone as being innocent without knowing if this is truly the case is just as bad as claiming someone is guilty without knowing.

I suppose the moral dilemna for you would really kick in if a child who was abused sent you a "hand written note."

Please raise the bar to the gates of your heart...and mind.

Posted by: dr?? | Apr 28, 2006 10:23:44 AM

I will say that the kids are gossiping about this. Before I heard anything of it, a couple of weeks ago my daughter announced that he was accused of inappropriately touching a student.

I actually told her not to repeat things like that because we don't know if they are true or not.

I have no idea one way or another, I would find it very sad for this person if he is wrongly accused. On the other hand I would hate for our children to be at risk. Its really a sad situation. Possibly a witch hunt, I could believe that in GR, but I suppose if its not it's best he is not in the classroom. No winners here no matter what the verdict ends up being.

Posted by: girl | Apr 28, 2006 10:49:40 AM

My daughter (now nearly 15) was a student of Mr. Juzden's at Forest. He was an amazing teacher -- the kids were excited about art because of him. In my view, he was one of the only impassioned and truely creative related-arts teachers at the primary school level. As someone who works with a lot of children during the Gas Lamp Players' productions, I am constantly faced with the question of whether to hug back when a child comes up and throws his or her arms around me. Unfortunately, we seem to be in a climate where any display of affection from an educator to a child is considered suspicious. This is a shame. I will miss Mr. Juzdan -- I was hoping my 5 year old, who enters kindergarten this fall -- would experience his magic.

Posted by: Jessica | Apr 28, 2006 10:53:17 AM

Mr. Juzden rocks!

Posted by: artlover | Apr 28, 2006 11:17:59 AM

From what I've heard, this is indeed a witch hunt by some adults with questionable judgment and motives. I'd love to see these adult accusers identified and require them to take 4 lie detector tests. What a sad situation -- for a great teacher like Mr. Juzdan -- and the children.

Posted by: lurker | Apr 28, 2006 11:37:44 AM

"I am constantly faced with the question of whether to hug back when a child comes up and throws his or her arms around me. Unfortunately, we seem to be in a climate where any display of affection from an educator to a child is considered suspicious. This is a shame."

Jessica, if you feel this way, can you imagine how a male educator must feel.

Posted by: Byron | Apr 28, 2006 11:50:23 AM

Byron -- I really can't imagine -- it's an impossible situation.

Posted by: Jessica | Apr 28, 2006 12:39:17 PM

we had him teach all of our children and for this we are eternally grateful. the best art teacher in the district by far.

Posted by: julia | Apr 28, 2006 4:40:22 PM

Because of Mr. Juzdan's creative knowledge as an art teacher, he has inspired my 15 year old daughter to be an artist now. She won the art award in the 3rd grade. This is due to the inspiration of Mr. Juzdan. I have found him the be a very kind and gentle person. Did the little kid have a tummy ache and he was showing his compassion for the child not feeling well? Please...in this day and age we all need a little sympathy and affection without accusing people of being abusers! I would send my kids back to his classroom in a minute.

Posted by: Barbara | Apr 28, 2006 5:09:09 PM

If Mr. Juzden is found to be not guilty, or if these charges are found to be false, the accusers should be held publicly accountable.

Posted by: artlover | Apr 28, 2006 5:12:52 PM

i remember fondly a female teacher at forest who always had her arms open at the end of the day when my son ran and jumped into them....

Posted by: julia | Apr 28, 2006 5:35:54 PM

Two children are at the center of this and somehow they are the villans. Do you know that 95% of accusations of abuse made by children like those involved are accurate? And are you aware that these children were interviewed and examined (including penis and rectum) and that DYFS concluded that abuse occurred? Mr Juzdan was charged with a felony and basically plead "No Contest". I know one family and the only thing they are fanatical about is their love for the children and their need to do what ever they can to insure their safety.

In this country people are always so quick to shout "innocent until proven guilty" - which is fair - but many then label the alleged victim a liar;that I don't understand.

Posted by: stb | Apr 28, 2006 5:43:55 PM

How did we get from "Juzdan is accused of having put his hand under a six-year-old's shirt and rubbed the child's stomach" to "these children were interviewed and examined (including penis and rectum) and that DYFS concluded that abuse occurred"> ????????????
What are the facts here?

Posted by: Byron | Apr 28, 2006 5:56:09 PM

anytime there is even a hint of sexual abuse a full examine follows in case a child is lying and/or withholding information.

Posted by: stb | Apr 28, 2006 6:02:27 PM

what about the other 5%?

Posted by: julia | Apr 28, 2006 6:11:11 PM

stb says, "Do you know that 95% of accusations of abuse made by children like those involved are accurate? And are you aware that these children were interviewed and examined (including penis and rectum) and that DYFS concluded that abuse occurred?"

stb, where do you get that astonishing figure? Are you aware of these tragic tales?

It's a shame that the truth can simply never be known in cases like this.

It's a shame for victimized children that adults can't always really tell if something happened. Molesters take advantage of this in the most evil way.

On the other hand, the risk for a truly innocent defendant is that the alleged victims are so vulnerable and innocent that it's a dangerous roll of the dice to fight the cases in a trial -- they wonder if they'll be the next McMartin case.

Posted by: appletony | Apr 28, 2006 6:13:34 PM

stb, where do you get that astonishing figure? Are you aware of these tragic tales?

A child psychologist.

Posted by: stb | Apr 28, 2006 6:19:23 PM

I am aware that there are false accusations of abuse, but there are far more cases of actual abuse, and sadly cases of abuse where children and their parents won't come forward for fear of personal attacks on their character.

Posted by: stb | Apr 28, 2006 6:23:25 PM

I have no idea how many accusations of child abuse are true or not. I suspect most are not. That 95% is surely a figure of absolute exaggeration, the type of thing the extreme Christian, Satan-snooping right thrives on.

But as it happens, one of the most curious things about the McMartin case is that there in fact WAS an underground chamber found beneath the McMartin Pre-School building. Right where some of the tykes' testimonies had placed it. It was located by a USC archaeologist hired by some of the kids' families who remained unhappy with the official verdicts in the case.

Since this discovery, other voices have predictably arisen to say that this chamber is in fact naturally occurring, not man-made as the parents who hired the archaeologist believe. The debate thus goes on, but over a room that might be considered "evidence," that had not been located at the time of the original verdicts.

Whichever way one usually falls in the debate over organized, cult-like child molestation (and I remain open to the possibility, rotten people do appallingly rotten things, and, as the recent case in Belgium proved, they often have the connections to conceal or explain away their crimes, nor is there any reason to doubt they might do so under the rubric of Satanism, whether or not such beliefs are "sincere"), the discovery of the chamber raises questions about our own limitations in considering such cases as the McMartin one.

On the one hand, we never wish to appear too credulous. On the other, something like the McMartin chamber pops up after the fact to test our rationality. The devil oft profits from the comfort we take in our dismissal of the very (wild and irrational) idea that such evils as hinted at in the McMartin case might actually exist...

Posted by: cathar | Apr 28, 2006 6:47:51 PM

cathar, point taken. stb -- that child psychologist is operating on emotion and/or instinct, not anything verifiable. 95% is an outrageously high figure (then again 48% of statistics are completely made up).

Posted by: appletony | Apr 28, 2006 7:18:27 PM

The child psychologist I spoke with was referring to children of kindergarden age. When the case became public two years ago I asked her opinion; she said "95% of reported cases of abuse in children of this age are true and have no secondary motivation (meaning the child is not making accusations in exchange for a car or money)". I tend to think that abuse is probably not reported 95% of the time.

Call me a zealot or a fanatic but if my child came home and mentioned that an adult had been touching him under table, under the shirt over a long period of time, I would probably follow in the steps of these parents - I don't know any parent that wouldn't do it the same.

Posted by: stb | Apr 28, 2006 8:32:17 PM

While alot of accusations have credibility-some do not.

A teacher buttoning a child's misbuttoned shirt might be considered an abuse in a society where teachers are wanted to be loving and caring and then when an act of that is shown it can be percieved as inapppropriate--

When investigators ask Leading questions sometimes the child gets lead into the wrong direction---when parents constantly interview a child over a small incident-the incident can take on the parents slant-and become bigger than it actually was because the child wants to please the parent--

The best sex/abuse investigators allow the child to tell the story thru renactment and illustrations-let the child tell the story in his or her own words without coaching-"false memory" syndrome has ruined excellant PEOPLES LIVES-by implanting ideas and memories---.

Although, we live in a frightened society and for good reason -We must question people who are "overly zelaous " in the involvement with children--but we must be cautious as well with children who have been overly cautioned consistantly about "inappropriate" touching (which might be taken to the length that a child migh feel "violated" when recieving a good old fashioned pat on the back-----there was recently a case where a child hugged another child--when she went home and told the parents- the parents were outraged by the other child's overzealous show of emotion-because it made their child "uncomfortable"--

Caution must be excercised when a professionals life is a stake as well as child who may later perceive themselves as a victim when no real criminal act has occurred.

While people love their children and want to protect them they should be cautious as to draw conclusions based on actions ---not all acts are sexual just because there was touching involved---Investigators must be cautious and trained to know the difference--

If the 4 polygraphs are true and the person comes up "clean" I fear for the accused and for the children who feel "violated"-----I jump to no conclusions not knowing the actual facts of the case...neither condem the teacher or the children--but in my experience again I RETURN TO THE METHODS USED IN QUESTIONING THE CHILDREN SINCE THAT OFTEN MAKES THE DIFFERENCE.

Posted by: cstarling | Apr 28, 2006 9:20:05 PM

It would help to have a citation for the study that produced the 95 percent figure, if there is one. In any case, as julia points out, 95 isn't 100.

Posted by: walleroo | Apr 28, 2006 9:38:47 PM

I seriously doubt those statistics since they include custodial cases which are notorious for false reporting. And do they exclude proven "false memory" experience into
them? To say that children are not abused is wrong as well as mentally challenged people- there are abused daily no doubt... But cautious investigation is imperative--we cannot rely on overblown staticts-And each case is different and must be treated as so...with patience and no presumption. Examinations must be conducted and the least interogation of the victim is necessary until an Experienced investigator is allow to interview the child without the prescence of the adults involved-and should be video taped and monitored from another room (2 way mirror and sound systme)---

Posted by: cstarling | Apr 28, 2006 9:58:32 PM

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