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Published February 2, 2008 in the Rutland Herald
By ERIC FRANCIS Herald Correspondent
MSJ student facing felony sex charges
A South Korean exchange student who has been attending Mount St. Joseph Academy is now facing felony charges that carry the potential of up to life in prison after allegations surfaced he has been molesting small children.
Hanse Park, 19, was ordered held without bail Friday morning following his arraignment in White River Junction District Court in White River Junction, where a court-appointed public defender entered innocent pleas on Park's behalf to two felony counts of aggravated sexual assault against a victim under the age of 10 and to a third felony count of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child.
Citing Park's lack of ties to the community and the fact that the crimes of which he is now accused carry penalties of no less than 10 years and no more than life, Judge Thomas Zonay ordered Park jailed at least until his next hearing, which is currently scheduled for March 10.
Vermont State Police Trooper Steven Otis wrote in his affidavit that the investigation into Park began Thursday afternoon after state officials received a report detailing the alleged abuse.
Otis and an investigator from the Department of Children and Families immediately interviewed the young children and reported they were able to give graphic descriptions of the alleged sexual contact with one of the alleged victims, estimating there had been 20 separate incidents of inappropriate touching and molestation before police stepped in.
Otis wrote that Park was subsequently picked up by police at his school and taken to the state police barracks in Rockingham, where "he advised he understood" his Miranda warnings and "eventually agreed to waive (them) and speak to me." Otis said that Park detailed several instances that appeared to match the behavior and actions outlined by the children who had reported him.
Park was lodged overnight in the Springfield jail prior to his arraignment after he was unable to post the $50,000 in bail that had initially been ordered by Judge Kathleen Manley.
International Student Accused In Sex Assaults
7:37 AM EST Feb 04, 2008
CAVENDISH, Vt. —An international student attending Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland, Vt. has been accused of sexually abusing two children.
Police said Hanse Park, 19, of South Korea, was involved in numerous incidents with the children.
Park has been charged with multiple counts of aggravated sex assault and lewd and lascivious conduct.
He could face life in prison if convicted on the charges.
Mount St. Joseph Academy did not offer any comment in the case but said the International Students Program has been around for years and they believe this is an isolated incident. The school will provide support for students wishing to speak with someone about the incident.
Park is being held without bail.
By SARAH HINCKLEY Herald Staff | February 14,2008
Foreign student incident leaves mark on MSJ
If the background check for international exchange students is done by the sending country, is there an increase in room for error when relying on translation and aggressive marketing?
According to Lisa Laviolette, president of Quest International in San Francisco, South Korea is one of the most assertive countries as far as sending students to the United States to study. Vietnam and China are close behind in their push to try to find agencies in the United States to accept students from Asia into domestic schools.
Laviolette's agency is one of three that works with Mount St. Joseph Academy on bringing foreign exchange students to the school.
"I probably get requests from Korea to work with me, sometimes three a month," said Laviolette, referring to the Asian agencies. "I have not actually taken any new Korean partners that I have not met. They change personnel so often. You learn over the years to be careful who you work with."
Laviolette said her agency is not responsible for bringing to Vermont Hanse Park, 19, the MSJ student recently arrested on two counts of allegedly sexually assaulting a child younger than 10 years old. Park was in his third year at the Rutland academy and was set to graduate at the end of this school year.
He is now being held in the Springfield prison until a hearing on the charges set to take place in March.
According to Vermont State Police Lt. Kraig Laporte with the Rockingham barracks, where Park was taken upon his arrest, no other parties have come forward with claims against the student. Park was also charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. All are felony charges and if Park is found guilty he could face up to life in prison.
Due to the school's student confidentiality policy, MSJ was unable to give details about Park's time at the school.
"I am sad any time a student or family is going through a difficult time," Principal Paolo Zancanaro said about the charges. "The first thing we do is make sure kids that are in this building know that they are cared for."
The first international exchange student enrolled at MSJ in 1944 and foreign nations have been represented on the campus ever since. The academy's international exchange student numbers are at a high point this year, with 17 students representing seven nations. It is more typical to carry an average of 10 to 12 exchange students, Zancanaro said.
The academy works with three different International Student Agencies to gather prospective students from overseas, and each focuses on specific countries or regions of the world. An incident of such magnitude is unusual, Zancanaro stressed in a meeting recently. More typical issues of exchange students have to do with acclimating to American culture, in particular the food.
Agencies in the sending countries are responsible for background checks, requesting letters of recommendations from teachers, community members and parents and screening the students with an interview. A criminal background is not typically part of the screening because the students are juveniles, according to Laviolette.
"We count on our foreign partners to do a thorough screening process and weed out the bad apples," she said. "We've had teacher reports that weren't entirely positive."
That screening process has room for error with translators conveying the information from one country to the next, Laviolette said. It is not unusual for the sending country to focus on the positive aspects of the student in order to get them accepted, she added.
"It's kind of a far-reaching process, if you will," said Julie Reynolds, International Students Program director at MSJ. "It's the agents in the (sending) countries who collect data and information."
The international student has a choice in the school to which they are sent. Much like a college application process, the school will review the student's information to see if they are a good fit, according to Reynolds.
Mount St. Joseph Academy undergoes an extensive screening process to match students with families, according to both Zancanaro and Reynolds. Families interested in being hosts to an exchange student fill out an application, are interviewed by the International Student Program director, have letters of recommendation submitted on their behalf and undergo a home visit.
"We actually find host families for the students ourselves," said Zancanaro, explaining that many are found through local parishes or are families with students already attending the school.
There is a difference in the exchange programs and the length of stay for international students. A J1 program is for a one-year exchange and the students have to return to their home country. An F1 program is an extended stay with a visa that allows a student to stay for up to five years and the student remains in the United States, according to Laviolette. There are cases where students will sign up for a J1 and change to an F1 once they are in the states.
"They tell us no," said Laviolette, about how international students, particularly those from South Korea, respond to whether they are planning to stay in the United States longer. "I would say 60 percent of them extend."
Some students will get host families to sign off as their legal guardian, she added. It is also not unheard of to have students drop the agency from their home country and have the parents offer the host families or school more money to stay, Laviolette said.
"It could be that the original organization has no idea they are still here," she said. "Frankly it is the school that needs to regulate. It's the school's responsibility to properly supervise the student."
According to Reynolds, Park was with an agency from his home country throughout the time he has been in Vermont.
Rutland City Public Schools' acceptance of international exchange students is from a narrow field of agencies they have worked with for decades.
"We basically accept Rotary students and AFS (originally American Field Service, now called AFS Intercultural Programs) students," Superintendent Mary Moran said. "We don't accept unaffiliated students."