Don't Ask, Don't Tell

A local teacher who molested his charges was allowed to take a new job in West Virginia, where a student died in his care.

By Aina Hunter
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 4 | Posted Sep. 22, 2004

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Former elementary school principal Edgar Friedrichs Jr. was convicted on four felony counts of child sexual abuse in January 2002. Last year he was indicted for the 1997 murder of a 12-year-old West Virginia boy. He began his career more than 30 years ago in Prospect Park, Pa.

This is the first installment of a two-part story.

 

Some of the kids thought Mr. Friedrichs was mean. But Joe Stillman thought it was cool the way his fifth-grade science teacher knew so much about the human body.

So when Mr. Friedrichs asked if he'd stand in front of the class as a model for an anatomy lesson, he jumped at the chance. He went to the front of the room, where Mr. Friedrichs helped him onto the big desk, putting a hand on his waist to keep him from losing balance.

Joe was wearing his favorite cords, the ones he wore snug and low around his hips. The ridges in the fabric were thick and wide. It was 1968; he was very much in style.

Mr. Friedrichs turned Joe around so his back faced the class. Holding tight to Joe's waist, he pointed out to the class the bones of the skeletal system. Then he hooked his fingers over Joe's belt and positioned his palm so he could massage Joe's crotch as he lectured. The kids in the class couldn't see his hand because of the way Joe was facing.

Joe didn't tell anyone about that day in class until four years later when his little brother told him Mr. Friedrichs had scared the hell out of him too.


Marise Stillman's sprawling collection of miniature homes and figurines takes up the entire window seat in her dining room.

She's got colonials with painted shutters and Victorians covered in snow. A tiny gentleman bows to a lady, and children pull each other in sleighs. Prospect Park--a modest middle-class suburb of nearly 7,000 located about 10 minutes east of Philadelphia International Airport--is a lot like the old-fashioned village she created.

Marise grew up here, and when she married, she stayed to raise her three boys to be honest and smart. She was the doer in the family; her husband, the pontificator. She says her kids, dark blond and sturdy, took after her.

In many ways this little Delaware County borough was an ideal place to raise a family--safe and neighborly, though she has a hard time thinking about it that way now.

Marise Stillman remembers the day she learned her boys had been molested, but it comes back in fragments now. She was in the kitchen when they came up from the basement. John, her youngest, had something to tell her.

She doesn't remember his words--only that he had trouble getting them out. His brothers helped by standing together and pantomiming what happened at the hands of his "safety instructor," Mr. Friedrichs, the fifth-grade teacher who also directed the school's elite force of crossing guards.

John had been made to stay for detention, and then he was asked to wait behind after the other kids left. Mr. Friedrichs closed the classroom door. Standing behind the 12-year-old, he massaged his neck while telling him he shouldn't be such a "bad boy."

When Mr. Friedrichs' hands moved down his body and over his hips, John lunged for his basketball. He said he had to go, but Mr. Friedrichs offered him a ride. When the teacher's blue-and-white Pinto started moving, John started feeling nervous again. At a red light he jumped out and ducked into an alley. He ran all the way home.

Marise Stillman listened to the story in her kitchen that day with a tight jaw. She'd wanted to explode, but knew she had to stay calm. "You would not believe the anger. Rage overtakes when you learn someone has ... done something to your child."

She demanded a meeting with school officials, and an investigation was launched. John's classmates were hauled in one by one. An interview with her son John, the superintendent and the principal was set up. Within a week other parents got the same rude awakening as Marise Stillman. The fifth-grade teacher never did face his accusers or their parents, though it became clear to the families he had done much harm.

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COMMENTS

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1. Anonymous said... on Feb 16, 2011 at 11:48AM

“Where did friedricks live while he worked in Prospect Park...are there reports of him molesting in the neighborhoods (in wooded areas or on streets) at this time? Did he only molest children well known to him.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Jul 28, 2011 at 10:18AM

“He went after well groom, good standing boys. I had him when I was at Interboro (5th grade) We would everyday, have to write our letters ABCs
once we were done a page, we would take it up to him and he would correct it with the students next to him. He always always have his hand around the the boys and hold them tight while checking the work. only the boys no girls I will never forget that, never understood why he did that.
he also had the boys desk around his deck. He was a very mean teacher”

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3. Anonymous said... on Jul 28, 2011 at 10:27AM

“CON'T FROM ABOVE
Interboro knew what he was!! in my class it was a boy name Steve his father was a priest and quess who started to go to church? i know because I went to that church too! Steve's father caught on what this guy was!!
he went to the school broad back then and they did nothing about! Quess who stop going to church once Steve;s father did that! i will never forget him because is was so mean to the kids, you never step out of line with him
years later when I heard what he did the past made sense to me”

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4. Anonymous said... on Jul 28, 2011 at 10:08PM

“I heard about this, but first time I read all about it. I will never forget being in his class for math, and since I had switched schools the prior year, I was never taught short division. I was a smart kid, and rather than simply take a few minutes to teach me this after class, he put me into a lower math class (his was the highest). I liked my new Math teacher, but was bored to death!! It always bothered me why he did that. He was a popular teacher as far as I knew then, so it really made me feel bad. But alas, I am a female!! Now all is clear. Even when I became a safety, finally, as it was a coveted position, and it was full of boys, I never could see why kids thought he was so great. I hated him for putting me a dumber class, and I always thought he was mean to students. Now it all makes sense. I am horrified what he did to my classmates! I remember those huge closets, I am so sorry anyone was abused like that.”

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