Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
In an effort to expand their “Little Children, Big Challenges” series, which has already tackled difficult issues including military deployment, divorce, and hunger, Sesame Workshop this weekend debuted Alex, a Muppet whose father is in jail. One in 28 American children reportedly have a parent behind bars–more than the number of children whose parents are deployed with the military–yet the subject is rarely discussed in a way that’s empowering and clarifying for children. Today.com has more:
Meet Alex, the first Muppet to have a dad in jail. According to a Pew Charitable Trusts report, one in 28 children in the United States now has a parent behind bars — more than the number of kids with a parent who is deployed — so it’s a real issue, but it’s talked about far less because of the stigma.
That’s why the Sesame Workshop says it created the “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration” initiative, an online tool kit intended to help kids with a parent in prison find support and comfort, and provide families with strategies and tips to talk to their children about incarceration.
Alex is blue-haired and green-nosed and he wears a hoodie – you might think he’s just another carefree inhabitant of Sesame Street. But there’s sorrow in Alex’s voice when he talks about his father.
“I just miss him so much,” he tells a friend. “I usually don’t want people to know about my Dad.”
It’s easier for kids to hear such things from a Muppet than an adult, creators of the initiative noted.
“Coming from a Muppet, it’s almost another child telling their story to the children,” said Jeanette Betancourt, vice president of outreach and educational practices at the Sesame Workshop.
Alex will not be part of the regular cast on “Sesame Street,” but he’s playing a central role in the online tool kit.
Parents.com’s GoodyBlog adds more on the initiative:
The goal of the initiative is twofold. One is to help caregivers–parents, grandparents, extended family members, foster parents–realize they’re not alone and that it’s important to talk to children about their situation. The tip sheet mentioned above provides caregivers with the best language to use with young kids and how to help them manage their emotions. The other aim is to help the incarcerated parent connect with his or her child. In the video, which includes the stories of real children, we meet a young boy who, with his father and sister, draws pictures for his imprisoned mom (that’s them in the photo above). She then colors them and mails them back, and this simple ritual has become very meaningful.
Image: Jail, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who created the “Elmo” character during his years working for Sesame Workshop, is facing new accusations of sexual relations with a minor, as well as charges that he used the illegal drug known as crystal meth. Clash resigned from Sesame Street in November of last year after two accusers alleged sexual misconduct.
More on the new lawsuit from NBC News:
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The man behind the iconic “Sesame Street” character is named in a sexual abuse lawsuit filed by Sheldon Stephens, who was the first individual to accuse Clash of abuse in 2012.
Stephens claims in a new complaint filed Monday in Middle District Court of Pennsylvania that he and Clash met in 2004 through a social networking event for models and actors. According to a press release sent by Stephens’ attorney Jeff Herman, the complaint includes accusations that Clash and Stephens began having sexual intercourse when Stephens was 16. It details an occasion when Stephens was still 16 and Clash hosted a “crystal meth sex party” at his apartment. The complaint also accuses Clash of doing meth at that party, giving the drugs to Stephens, and engaging in sexual contact with the then-teenager.
Michael Berger, an attorney for Clash, issued a statement Tuesday calling the lawsuit “meritless” and “barred by the statute of limitations.” In the statement, Berger writes that Stephens has “already admitted in writing that he had ‘an adult consensual relationship’ with Mr. Clash. Mr Clash continues to deny any wrongdoing, and we intend to defend this case forcefully.”
Tuesday, November 20th, 2012
Kevin Clash, the creative force behind the popular “Elmo” character on Sesame Street, has resigned from Sesame Workshop after more than 20 years as the beloved character. The resignation came after a roller coaster week that began with allegations that Clash had a sexual relationship with a minor and Clash took a leave of absence while the matter was under review. The accuser, now 23 years old, then recanted his allegations, only to reverse that decision and return $125,000 Clash had paid. That man, whose name has not been identified, has not filed a lawsuit.
Tuesday, a second accuser emerged, 24-year-old Cecil Singleton, who is suing Clash for $5 million in damages for having “sexual activity” when Singleton was 15. As news of the lawsuit broke, Clash announced his resignation. From The New York Times:
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“Announcing the decision with what he called a “very heavy heart,” Mr. Clash said in a statement, “Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work ‘Sesame Street’ is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately….”
While Mr. Clash’s departure on Tuesday put some distance between the sex allegations and the iconic children’s character, the claims may affect the “Sesame Street” brand in ways that remain to be seen.
Hasbro, the main toy licensee for “Sesame Street” products, said in a statement Tuesday, “We are confident that Elmo will remain an integral part of ‘Sesame Street’ and that ‘Sesame Street’ toys will continue to delight children for years to come.” Macy’s, in a statement, said the episode would have no bearing on “Sesame Street’s” presence in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade later in the week….
“None of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization,” the organization said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from ‘Sesame Street.’”
The statement concluded, “This is a sad day for ‘Sesame Street.’ ” The organization declined interview requests.”
Monday, November 19th, 2012
Less than a week after recanting allegations of sexual misconduct against Sesame Street’s famed “Elmo” creator and puppeteer Kevin Clash, the 23-year-old Sheldon Stephens is apparently renewing his accusation, saying he was paid $125,000 by Clash to recant his original complaint and wishes to return the money and pursue the matter through legal channels. More from Boston.com:
“Clash, the puppeteer behind the beloved children’s character Elmo, paid his accuser, Sheldon Stephens, $125,000 to recant a claim that the pair had a sexual relationship when Stephens was 16 and Clash was 45, reports TMZ.
Stephens accused Clash of the inappropriate relationship last week and then recanted his story.
When Stephens recanted, he said, through his lawyers, that “his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship.”
Now he’s changing his story again.
TMZ reports, ‘We’ve learned Stephens has met with lawyers in Los Angeles and told them he was pressured into recanting his allegation and insists he’s telling the truth when he says he had sex with Clash when he was 16.’”
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