Holding signs and wearing red shirts bearing the logo of Creative Frontiers school, nearly 50 supporters of the private school and its embattled principal crowded into the Citrus Heights City Council meeting Thursday night to urge the city to reopen the school.
Those supporters also defended Principal Robert Adams, the subject of a criminal investigation into allegations of child molestation at the school, saying he has done nothing wrong.
Authorities last week shut the private school down amid an ongoing investigation into alleged molestation of young children over the last 15 years. Although Citrus Heights police have identified Adams as the focus of the investigation, he has not been charged with a crime.
At Thursday's council meeting, Citrus Heights Mayor Jeannie Bruins told Adams' supporters that, by law, the council could not "take action or respond substantively to your comments."
"But we want to hear what you have to say," Bruins said.
More than a half-dozen supporters spoke at the meeting, several of them moved to tears. They commended the way Adams has run the school and criticized authorities for the way the closure of the school was handled July 18. They said they have presented to the council an online petition signed by 280 people requesting the reopening of the school.
"If one person needs to be investigated, pull that person out, investigate," said Courtney Adams, one of the principal's adult daughters, who addressed the council alongside her two sisters. "But don't close the school and make the children suffer."
Robert Adams was not at the meeting.
Emmaly DeClercq, 45, of Fair Oaks said her 7-year-old son has thrived at Creative Frontiers and is registered for the fall semester. She said she visited the school campus often and never witnessed "any inappropriate behavior" by a staff member at the school.
"No charges have been filed and nothing new has come to light," DeClercq said. "Meanwhile, my child sits in limbo."
Citrus Heights Police Department spokesman Officer Bryan Fritsch said Thursday that the department's investigation into the allegations against Adams is continuing.
"There's several people that we have to interview and have yet to interview, and we're taking it slowly and methodically because of the nature of the allegations," Fritsch said.
Adams, 60, has denied the accusations. His attorney, Linda Parisi, has described the school as an "educational model." The elementary school at Creative Frontiers operates under a business license issued by the city of Citrus Heights, which took action against the license last week based on the ongoing investigation.
Mayor Bruins said Adams can appeal the decision to revoke the business license, which effectively closed the school. Such an appeal would be heard by an independent hearing officer, who would issue a written decision, Bruins said. Courtney Adams said after the meeting that an appeal was filed Thursday.
Adams or the city finance director will have the opportunity to appeal a written decision, in which case it would go to the council, Bruins said.
The preschool portion of the school is licensed by the state; the state Department of Social Services took action against the preschool the same day.
In a complaint filed in support of revoking the preschool's license, the state Department of Social Services accuses Adams of "inappropriate physical and sexual contact with female children" beginning in 1997.
The complaint cites two specific allegations from a parent and former school receptionist, as well as other more general accusations.