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Muir P.E. teacher denies child molestation charge

BURBANK -- Surrounded by supporters, John Muir Middle School teacher

Ron Kurtz appeared in San Pedro Municipal Court to plead not guilty to

charges he fondled a 12-year-old boy during an overnight trip to Catalina

Island, his attorney said.

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Kurtz, who has taught physical education in the Burbank Unified School

District for more than 35 years, turned himself in to authorities

Thursday and was charged with committing a lewd act on a child under 14

and being in possession of obscene materials, said Dep. Dist. Atty.

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Christopher Frisco. He was released Friday after posting $25,000 bail.

Kurtz’s attorney Stephen Klarich said his client made his plea of

innocence backed by 20 to 30 of his supporters, including fellow

teachers, friends, students and counselors.

The charges against Kurtz, a 59-year-old Burbank resident, stem from a

weekend trip to Catalina Island in October that he took with a group of

boys who were members of a Dolphin Club. The Dolphin Club, which is often

affiliated with the YMCA, is a youth group for boys in grades six through

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eight. Dolphin clubs are often involved in swimming activities, although

it is unclear if the Burbank group had that as its focus.

Kurtz is accused of entering an unidentified 12-year-old Burbank boy’s

room while he was sleeping and fondling him. The boy did not confront

Kurtz about the incident, said L.A. County Sheriff’s Det. Danny Coon.

The alleged lewd act was discovered after another boy, who had

traveled to Las Vegas with the group on an earlier trip, reported a

similar incident, Coon said.

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No criminal charges have been filed against Kurtz in Nevada, said

Burbank Police Lt. Don Brown.

On Thursday, Klarich said the allegations are ridiculous and that

Kurtz has been devastated by the charges.

“He’s dealt with tens of thousands of children, now all of sudden he’s

going to turn into a child molester?” said Klarich, who specializes in

representing people who are accused of committing sex crimes. “I can’t

imagine that after 50 years this man decides to do this.”

On Friday, Kurtz, who has taught P.E. for Burbank Unified since 1963,

was placed on an unpaid leave of absence pending the outcome of the case,

Superintendent David Aponik said. He had been on a paid administrative

leave since October when the investigation began.

Kurtz had discussed affiliating his Dolphin Club with the Burbank YMCA

about three or four months ago, said Burbank YMCA Director George Saikli.

However, Saikli said Kurtz never turned in membership applications for

the group.

A copy of a search warrant served at Kurtz’s Burbank apartment Oct. 7

lists sign-up sheets for Dolphin trips among the items found by police.

Authorities said they also found obscene materials during the search, in

which two computers, a video camera, rolls of film and other items were

confiscated.

Kurtz was ordered to return to Long Beach Municipal Court on Jan. 10

for a pretrial hearing. Another preliminary hearing was scheduled for

Jan. 21 in Catalina Municipal Court.


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