Sex Abuse Cases: Waldorf School Suspends Teacher! Translated by Tom Mellett

Colleagues and parents are shocked by the allegations against the teacher. The investigation of other perpetrators continues. A former student of the accused speaks out.

The reaction of school administrators, pupils and teachers at the [Berlin] Waldorf School in the “Märkisch” [Brandenburg] district on Saturday was disbelief at the news that one of the three men arrested on suspicion of human sex trafficking and systematic sexual child abuse is one of their teachers. “The school community is deeply shocked about the suspected involvement of a teacher in these terrible crimes,” read a statement by the school board. “So far we have no information that students at the school have been affected. As a precaution, the school has sent out a contact number for any concerned person to call.” As we have elsewhere reported, the 67-year-old teacher [Johan Elwing] was arrested on Wednesday for alleged sexual abuse of several boys at an orphanage in Haiti and also in Berlin. The home was allegedly operated by the Berlin Project: “Promote Africa” with this teacher as chairman. Also charged are the business manager of the Project and a third man. The Project sees itself as an initiative for integration and development of young people from Africa with immigrant backgrounds. The focus of the project is the “prevention of violence affecting adolescent males.” There are also similar projects supported, among others, by artists and the Brazilian soccer player, Francesco Lima, has underwritten a workshop on “Street Soccer for Tolerance.” On top of that, the project has been closely connected with the organizers of Farafina, the Africa House in Berlin, since 2005. But neither Farafina nor the Project had issued a statement by yesterday. One partner in the Project, a German artist, was shocked Saturday by the allegations. He said that cooperating with the Project a few years ago struck him as “dubious” and that the organization of a joint event was “not transparent.” Therefore, he had rejected a renewed offer of cooperation. Another artist who had worked with “Promote Africa” said the chairman would “always make a good impression” and he seemed to have “a good rapport with children.”

“On good terms with children,” also acknowledged a former student of the now suspended Waldorf teacher. “He was very involved — I have only fond memories of him,” says the Berliner, who in the late 1980’s was an exchange student at the Stockholm Waldorf school, where this same teacher had taught a class before later being re-assigned to Berlin. The teacher “had a good rapport with students,” but according to the recollection of this former student at that time, he had never violated any boundaries. The teacher and Project chairman now accused of sexual abuse has been relieved of his teaching duties, and an injunction barring his return to the school also taken against him. His name and photo were removed from the school’s website. “The Waldorf School Board takes these allegations very seriously and the suspension will be maintained until the legal issues are definitively settled,” said the school board. The parents at the Waldorf school — where the 67-year-old had worked as an English teacher at different grade levels since 2000 until his arrest — were deeply concerned. “Since his arrest, there is nothing else to talk about,” says one father as he stood amid the construction debris and insulation material that the parents — on their own initiative and despite the holidays — needed for the renovation of the orange-colored main building. They had collected more than 400,000 Euros [$580,000 US] in donations for the remodeling and new construction of a kitchen and a multi-purpose room. Everyone here is mum about the teacher. The parents just refer to the statement of the school administration. Among his colleagues on Saturday, the news was getting around slowly at first. “I just can’t imagine it!” said a female teacher who only found out by querying the Tagesspiegel [Daily Mirror] about the case. “It’s such a mystery to me!” The school has around 430 students and 35 teachers. In light of the existing case, doubts have been raised about the requirements for associations where adults work with young people — better to check in advance as already required by sports clubs. “Wherever there is a lot of working with children, then police certifications must be required,” said CDU-politician Peter Trapp to the Tagesspiegel.