Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Helix High Employee's Role Investigated Concerning Runaway

Sometimes you have to help a child in distress even if it might cost you. It looks like that's what Josh Stepner did.

See all Josh Stepner posts and updates.

Helix High Employee's Role Investigated Concerning Runaway
Lynn Stuart
October 6, 2009

...Assistant Principal, Josh Stepner, is accused of helping a 16 year-old student run away from home.

Students say there must be a mistake. "I was in shock. I mean Principal Stepner is all around great guy," says one student...

"We haven't found any indication at all to date that there's anything of a sexual nature or anything involving drugs or alcohol," says Lt. David Bond of the La Mesa Police Department.

Featured Comments
DLC14 - 10/6/2009 9:47 PM

Mr. Stepner was my former vice principal at Serra High School. He was always there for his students. Never once did I witness any wrongdoing on his part whatsoever. Yes, I do think that Mr. Stepner should have informed the parents of the child's whereabouts. But if there is no sexual misconduct or drugs/alcohol involved, what harm is done?? The child safely returned home. Stepner was trying to help a student out that maybe felt that they were running out of options, plain and simple. Who knows what would have happened had he not stepped in. Maybe the student was suicidal? I stand by my former vice principal along with the hundreds of students and faculty who can attest to his true character.
mckinleyS - 10/6/2009 8:41 PM

Alright, I just wanted to say as a clean and sober high school senior at a private high school, I was mentored by Joshua Stepner. He taught me morality as an individual and stepped up repeatedly to help me out in times of need. Josh Stepner never displayed conduct unbecoming of the father figure he became. He helped out students who were under the influence of narcotics and maintained a professional attitude. I was sorry to see him leave the school due to differences between his teaching and the administration. Remember the man is innocent until proven guilty.
Sdtchr - 10/6/2009 7:30 PM

After working as a teacher under mr. Stepner, I must say I was always impressed by the respect & professionalism with which he handled every situation I was aware of, whether it involved teachers, parents, students, or admin. I would have gladly worked with him longer, & I don't doubt he is getting a far worse rap here than is warranted. Reserve your judgement, people...

I'm wondering if trustee Jim Kelly of Grossmont High School District asked Bonnie Dumanis to prosecute a good man at Helix High simply because he wants to bring down the charter school.

Helix asst. principal says he was only trying to help student
Oct 22, 2009
Student's application & restraining order against her mother (2009)

For the first time, we're hearing from a Helix High School assistant principal accused of helping a 16-year-old student run away. Through his attorney, the principal says he was only trying to help a child abandoned by her mother.

"This is really a classic example of no good deed goes unpunished," Josh Stepner's attorney Mark-Robert Bluemel said.

Bluemel is getting ready to go to court to defend Stepner against a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Stepner is accused of helping a 16-year-old student run away to Oregon.

"This man is innocent and he has the right to prove that. Unfortunately, what has happened prior - and that's why I'm talking to you - is he was painted out as being guilty," Bluemel said.

Stepner is not accused of having a sexual relationship with the student, as was initially reported by News 8 and other media outlets. Those reports were based on inaccurate information given to the media on October 5th, and were corrected by News 8 twelve hours later.

As it turns out, Stepner is accused of helping the girl purchase a bus ticket to Oregon and driving her to the bus station.

"My client brought her to safety, so to speak. She's now back in Oregon with a family and going to school," Bluemel said.

Court records show the girl had recently taken out a restraining order against her mother, and the judge revoked the mother's custodial rights. Bluemel says the girl in effect had no guardian and no home to run away from.

"He was assisting a student in need without a guardian and helping her get home, and I think he's been made a scapegoat," Bluemel said.

Since 2006, four teachers have been convicted of sex crimes involving Helix High students.

Bluemel says his client, a married father of three, simply got caught up in that firestorm.

"The evidence will show that there was no inappropriate conduct. He was acting in furtherance of the child's best interests in getting her to a safe harbor, back home to Oregon," Bluemel said.

The girl's father is dead and her grandmother lives in Oregon.

Stepner is facing one misdemeanor count. His attorney will enter a plea in El Cajon court by Nov. 5

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