Flanked by his daughters and tightly holding hands with his wife, a principal under investigation for allegations of child molestation at a Northern California private school vigorously denied wrongdoing Wednesday, declaring at a news conference, "I am innocent."
In his first public statement since authorities shut down Creative Frontiers School in the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights on Monday, Robert Adams said he was "sad, mostly for the trauma this has created."
"But I assure you, I am very confident that nothing inappropriate has happened," he said.
The state and police are investigating Adams after reports that he inappropriately touched female students over a 15-year period. Police have served search warrants at both Adams' house and the school, which he founded in 1975.
"I want to thank the many supporters that have come forward during this difficult time," Adams said. "I am shocked at the allegations that were made against me and the school, but I welcome a full investigation."
Later Wednesday, several universities and a state commission confirmed there were discrepancies between their records and academic credentials Adams has claimed.
Adams' attorney, Linda Parisi, didn't return a call seeking comment on the credentials, and a phone number associated with Adams' home address in Folsom was disconnected.
Parisi said at the news conference that she and her client were disappointed by the way the molestation investigation has been handled. Parents were met by armed officers when they went to pick up their children from daycare when the school was abruptly shut down.
"We believe that the safety and welfare of the children were compromised and could have been handled in a significantly different fashion," she said.
The molestation allegations were contained in a complaint filed this week by the California Department of Social Services, which revoked Adams' daycare license.
Adams has not been arrested, and authorities have not said when or if they intend to file charges. Citrus Heights police spokesman Jon Kempf said Wednesday investigators will to take as long as they need while examining all aspects of the case.
"We don't have a timeline. We'll take as much time as necessary to really investigate," Kempf said.
The complaint alleged Adams, whom students refer to as "Mr. Bob," touched young girls under their shirts and down their pants. It went on to say he would "seclude female children under a computer desk and lie down with them on a mat in his office."
The complaint also accuses office administrator Cynthia Higgins of being aware of some of the allegations and failing to report them to authorities. A former receptionist, Irma Mertens, told The Sacramento Bee she made five calls to the state before investigators took her complaint seriously.
Parisi said during Wednesday's news conference that the complaint was made after a volunteer employee learned she would not be receiving an application for full-time employment.
"I find it interesting, the timing of this," Parisi said. "We are confident that whatever claims she's made, there's no foundation to them."
Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Mertens on Wednesday were unsuccessful. Reached by phone, Higgins made one statement before hanging up: "I regret what happened, this is a travesty, and we're more concerned about the kids."
Mertens said in the complaint that she saw Adams slip his hand under a female student's bathing suit.
Parisi said Adams works in a highly regulated industry where the children's safety is paramount. Any investigation, she said, will prove the accusations are unfounded.
Parisi said Higgins never reported the accusations because they never happened.
She added that if Mertens thought "something had happened," she could have notified someone.
"Instead what she did was maintain working at the school for several months," Parisi said. "The only time she came forward was as soon as she learned she was not going to be offered full-time employment."
Parents said they were shocked by Creative Frontiers' closure, and many of them have inundated the school's Facebook page with messages in support of the principal, who they say has been wrongly accused.
Creative Frontiers School serves about 180 students in preschool through sixth grade and has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Tuition to attend for a full year is $6,507, according to the website.
Its tree-lined campus in a middle-class, suburban setting about 20 miles northeast of the state capitol has a small horse pasture. Farther back, a large playground is surrounded by red, cottage-like classrooms.
On Tuesday, the campus was deserted except for a handful of horses in the pasture. A sign posted on the office said the school had been closed by the state. Swim towels had been left hanging to dry on a fence near the pool.
Heather Jo Greenwood, whose 6-year-old son had been attending the school for two years, said he's been constantly asking why the school shut down and why he can't see his friends and teachers.
"We've never had anything but great experiences there. It's really made my son come out of his shell," Greenwood said. "I know the kids are devastated by the allegations and can't understand why they're saying bad things about Mr. Bob because they all love him."
Also Wednesday, some colleges and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing said their records don't match a resume listing Adams' credentials that was filed as part of a 1999 bankruptcy case.
Adams filed the resume with the court as evidence of his experience as an educator. The document said Adams had graduated with two bachelor's degrees, and earned a master's degree and two state education credentials at Southern California colleges in the 1970s, including the University of California, Los Angeles.
Calls Wednesday to the schools and the commission confirmed Adams had received the bachelor's degrees and attended at least two of the schools. But there was no record that he completed a master's degree or received the state credentials, representatives for the schools and commission said.
UCLA found no record that he attended the school at all.
Associated Press writer Adam Weintraub contributed to this report.