Elementary teacher charged with institutional sexual assault

Harrisburg

A teacher is accused of sexually abusing a student and having inappropriate contact with four others at a Dauphin County elementary school.

James W. Mentzer, 39, of Hummelstown, was charged Thursday with felony counts of institutional sexual assault and unlawful contact with a minor regarding incidents at East Hanover Elementary School in Grantville, state police said.

Mentzer is additionally charged with a misdemeanor count of indecent assault and five counts of corruption of minors.

School administrators contacted police in February to report suspected child abuse involving Mentzer. The investigation revealed Mentzer had inappropriate contact with an 8-year-old, a 9-year-old, and three 11-year-olds at the school beginning in August 2017, police said in a news release.

The criminal complaint states that Mentzer “engaged in a course of escalating grooming” with the girls by pulling them out of recess or other classes to work on a “project” in his room. Each of the girls reported they were alone with Mentzer and the door was closed. 

The girls said Mentzer recorded videos of them, sometimes as they read aloud or played with puppets. For other videos, the girls said Mentzer swung a necklace in front of their face and had them repeat, “I will obey you, Master” or “I will obey your commands, Master.”

He told one of the girls she would have to do whatever he asked, the complaint states.

Another girl said Mentzer asked her to read while holding a giraffe puppet and became angry when she wouldn’t speak as the giraffe. She said Mentzer rubbed her arms, legs, and groin as she read.

Police said Mentzer had pulled the girl out of line for recess without her teacher’s knowledge.

When school administrators confronted Mentzer about his behavior, he admitted to being along with students and having them call him “Master.” He referred to his conduct as to being part of his “master plan,” according to the complaint.

He reportedly could not provide the videos, claiming the recordings did not work. 

Lower Dauphin superintendent Dr. Robert Schultz said Mentzer was placed on administrative leave when the allegations were brought to the school’s attention.

Mentzer has been a full-time elementary school teacher with the district since 2003.

Police said anyone with information on other possible victims should call the Harrisburg station at 717-671-7500.

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