SB Police Find No Substance To Accusations Leveled At Aquinas Drama Teacher

Investigators were able to find no substance whatsoever to the accusations leveled at Aquinas High School drama and music teacher Paul Reed regarding what a parent took as his untoward interaction with a student actress he was directing in this year’s fall play.
Several of those familiar with the circumstance who were present when the incident took place insisted there was nothing to what occurred, and that Reed had been maligned ignorantly and needlessly.
The mother of the girl alleged to be the victim overreacted to Reed’s effort to provide a visualization of what should take place on stage during a wedding scene in what were then to be upcoming live performances of the Junior University student play Little Mermaid Jr., which was performed at the Aquinas High School Performing Arts Center between November 6 and November 21. Multiple Aquinas students were cast members.
Junior University Musical Theater was founded by William and Patricia Dixon with the help of the Henley family in 1963 and has existed as the sponsor of live musical theater productions specifically designed for family audiences since that time. The first venue for the performances was the Roosevelt Bowl in Perris Hill Park. After more than a half of a century, the Junior University Musical Theater changed its venue to the San Manuel Performing Arts Center located on the Aquinas High School Campus.
Little Mermaid Jr. was adapted from a Hans Christian Andersen story and the Disney Studios rendition thereof, which deals with a young mermaid, Ariel, willing to give up her life in the sea to gain a human soul. The plot involves her passion to live with her prince suitor on land and her ties to the underwater kingdom of her birth and the ambivalence she eventually has over casting off her undersea life and all it represents to her, including her role as the princess daughter of the king of the underwater kingdom.
On October 20 a rehearsal for the play was ongoing when Reed, as the director, was giving instruction to the actor playing Mer-King, the little mermaid’s father, during the wedding scene. According to several of those present, Reed demonstrated how the Mer-King should kiss his daughter as she was being given away at the alter.
With at least 30 people looking on, Reed simulated a kiss to the forehead of the actress playing Ariel. According to some, who were viewing the scene from either of two sides, Reed did not actually kiss the girl, his head moving close to the student, but without making physical contact. Others, who were in the position of the audience could not see whether in fact Reed had kissed the student. Nevertheless, they emphasized, Reed, due to COVID-19 precaution protocol, was wearing a face covering.
“He was giving direction,” one witness said. “There was nothing to it.”
The mother of the girl, upon hearing that her daughter had been kissed by an Aquinas High teacher, immediately lodged complaints with both the San Bernardino Police Department and Aquinas High, alleging her daughter had been sexually violated by a man three times her daughter’s age.
Aquinas High School Principal Dr. Amanda Egan and the president of the Aquinas board, Chris Barrows, moved at once to suspend Reed, who is a faculty member with the school, teaching visual and performing arts.
Reed has been a credentialed teacher since 1988, and began teaching at Aquinas, a Catholic educational institution, in 2018. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in speech and drama from California State University San Bernardino. A Southern Baptist, he has a master of arts degree in Christian education from Gateway Seminary and a doctorate in theology from Andersonville Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister.
His son is a student at Aquinas.
The San Bernardino Police Department was contacted by the student’s mother the day of the incident. Detectives took an extensive statement from the mother, who reportedly was not present at the October 20 rehearsal, but made a point of being present at the next rehearsal of the play to intervene if a similar incident were to take place.
In her October 20 contact with the police department, the mother alleged her daughter had been the victim of Dr. Reed’s sexual assault. Detectives spoke with the student herself. Interviewed, as well, were a number of witnesses present on October 20. The police department informed the San Bernardino County Department of Child and Family Services about the incident.
Ultimately, what was initially classified in police department documentation as a “sexual crime” was determined to have no basis in fact.
Reed was cleared of having engaged in inappropriate behavior toward a minor, and the attendant allegations of “annoying children” and “molestation” were determined to be entirely without substance.
The accusations against Reed were considered to be so wholly without merit that detectives determined that no referral to the district attorney’s office was warranted.
Reed’s involvement in the production of Little Mermaid, Jr. was entirely curtailed. He was not present for any further rehearsals, and was not present for any of the performances during the play’s run. He was not permitted back onto the Aquinas campus.
Meanwhile, several news outlets ran stories reporting that Reed had been accused of having an inappropriate encounter with a student. As of Tuesday, none of those stories were yet posted on those newspapers’ websites.
A Sentinel phone call to Aquinas principal Egan was taken, but Egan was not at liberty to make any sort of statement and she could not say whether Reed had been suspended with or without pay, whether he had been or was going to be reinstated, or whether the relationship between Reed and Aquinas High School had been severed. Egan referred any questions to John Andrews, the spokesman for the Diocese of San Bernardino. Andrews did not return any of several calls placed to him by the Sentinel.
-Mark Gutglueck

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