Parents, former students react to teacher charged with sexual abuse

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For East Hanover Elementary School parent Diane Dunkle, the allegations against 39-year-old James William Mentzer aren’t too surprising.

“I didn’t think it was to this point, but yes, he’s always been a strange person,” said Dunkle. 

Two years ago, Dunkle’s daughter sat in his class, and even then, she said she felt like Mentzer was “off.”

“He told my daughter that she was too grown to call us Mommy and Daddy, and I was like, that’s not right,” said Dunkle. 

Mentzer is facing allegations that he had inappropriate contact with five girls between the ages of 8 and 11. According to arrest records, Mentzer tried to hypnotize the girls, forced them to read out loud to him, and privately, and asked them to call him master.

“It started with inappropriate touching and then he was doing things with these students that was setting them up for future possible sexual assault,” said Tpr. Brent Miller, a Pennsylvania State Police spokesman.

Investigators say only one of the girls was physically touched and the other four were groomed for sexual abuse. 

“I’m concerned and a lot of other parents are concerned. He’s been here a long time,” said Dunkle. 

Mentzer taught at East Hanover Elementary for 15 years. Police said none of the victims were in his third-grade class.

“That’s why we’re reminding the public there could be more victims out there possibly, maybe that are too ashamed right now to come forward,” said Miller. 

It’s not easy, but investigators are asking parents to ask their kids about adults in their life. 

“You know, in the world today, you can’t sugarcoat a lot of things. You have to be honest with your children, so I would just ask them,” said Dunkle. 

“With the whole Penn State scandal, it really put everything at the forefront. Now, if you see something, say something,” said Miller. 

Even though she has reservations about Mentzer, Dunkle says the school has been wonderful to her students, and she applauds the way the district handled the situation.

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