The Child Safety Challenges Presented By Private Lessons Given By Adults

Michael D. Schneider, a piano teacher from Normal, Illinois, has been sentenced to 88 years in prison for criminal sexual assault of a minor and possession of child pornography.

Police started an investigation after Schneider was accused of inappropriate relations with a juvenile victim. Schneider, 33, worked as a staff member at St. John's Lutheran Church in Bloomington before he was arrested in June 2021 on the felony charges. He also taught piano lessons.

His victim is now a college student. She struggled through tears as she read her four-page victim impact statement. She stated the grooming and sexual assaults started when she was about 14. Since that time, she has experienced depression, suicide attempts, and self-harm.

The woman said Schneider started telling jokes "that led to talks of sex, the pornography and the assaults." She did not disclose the abuse that often took place during what should have been piano lessons because of fears that "my sisters would be next."

The victim's mother also issued a statement, saying, Schneider "used me to get to my child." She said every detail of the assaults was planned, including when Schneider hired her daughter to babysit his child when he was actually home.

The mother also found out later that Schneider took her daughter to buy sex toys and instructed her – if asked – to say she was "his wife". According to the mother's long and emotional statement, "He robbed her of a normal teenage life."

The mother said her daughter first disclosed the sexual assault to Schneider's wife, who advised the girl not to tell anyone. But the girl, who had turned 18 at the time, went on to tell her parents who went to police.

In asking for the maximum number of years allowed under a plea agreement, state's attorney Erika Reynolds also pointed out that Schneider gave the victim alcohol as part of the grooming process. The prosecutor also pointed to information in a sex offender evaluation that described Schneider as manipulative and unwilling to acknowledge his misconduct. Reynolds said the pornography depicted men engaged in sexual acts with toddlers.

Judge William Yoder described the images as "repugnant and beyond disbelief." He also said, the harm to the victim was severe, and "her life may never be the same." Edith Brady-Lunny "Piano teacher from Normal sentenced to 88 years for sexual assault" (Feb. 22, 2023).

Commentary and Checklist

At least 90 percent of sexually abused children are abused by someone the child and/or the child’s family knows, as in the above source article.

Moreover, sex offenders are known to manipulate targets/victims and those who surround their targets/victims, like the mother in the source article described.

The best prevention method is for adults to accompany children to lessons and be able to observe how the adult interacts with the child, especially if the lessons are performed in a private setting, like a home.

Other prevention suggestions include:

  • Before engaging private lessons with another adult, such as a coach, private teacher, or tutor, talk openly and frequently with your child about appropriate boundaries between adults and children.
  • Schedule an informational meeting with the adult, and state your safety expectations and whether you are allowed to observe. If you are not, find another teacher.
  • Contact other families, who have sent their children to the adult, for references and information about their experience.
  • Ask the organization the adult is associated with has passed a background check.
  • Require the coach, private teacher, or tutor to copy you on any electronic communication (email or text) with your child.
  • Make certain all lessons are performed in the open.
  • Any reasonable suspicions of abuse should be reported to law enforcement.
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