San Francisco suspends Kid Serve art program after child-porn charge 

City officials have suspended the services of a nonprofit group that was receiving taxpayer funding to provide art lessons to children after the founder and director was charged in federal court with possession of child pornography.

The federal charges prompted a local investigation into whether any children were harmed when under the care of Kid Serve founder and director 46-year-old Anthony Josef Norris.

No children or parents of children involved in the program are known to have complained about Norris, said Maria Su, director of the Department of Children, Youth and Families. “We are working with the appropriate authorities in investigating if any children have been harmed under his care,” she said.

Su said The City followed proper protocol before awarding Norris grant funding by obtaining his fingerprints and submitting them to the Department of Justice for review, as required under the California penal code and through the grant application.

“We believe that this is his first offense because there are no indications that he has a prior record or history of harm to children,” Su said.

Nonetheless, she said, her department was halting its support of the program. “All services and activities related to this nonprofit have been suspended,” she said.

The City has paid for the 11-year-old nonprofit’s services for several years, and has spent $53,506 so far on the program this fiscal year.  

The federal complaint says the FBI tracked child-porn files posted in July 2010 by someone using the name “Spanky” on a website known for trading such images. The files were traced to Norris’ home.

During a search of his home on April 26, Norris told agents that they would find child porn files on his computer and “admitted he downloaded child pornography via the Internet and has been collecting child pornography for a few years,” according to the complaint. The FBI says they found 7,500 files of “possible child pornography.”

Norris appeared in U.S. District Court on Thursday morning on the charges and posted a $200,000 bond. He did not return calls for comment Friday.

The nonprofit received city funding to provide art instruction to kindergarteners through eighth-graders at an afterschool program at John Muir Elementary School. The program also received grant funding from other city departments, including the Arts Commission.

“This is a police matter and does not appear to be related to his work in our schools,” San Francisco Unified School District spokeswoman Heidi Anderson said. “If SFUSD receives any reports involving our students with regard to his arrest, we will absolutely investigate.”

Mayor Ed Lee requested that parents be notified and that all of the nonprofit’s services be suspended amid the ongoing investigation, said Lee’s spokeswoman Christine Falvey.  

“The mayor was concerned and reached out to all the relevant agencies when learning of this,” she said.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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