Acker arrest spurs Westwood forum

Published 10:59 am Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Alabaster's Westwood Baptist Church will host a forum on child safety on Jan. 22 at 4 p.m. (Contributed)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A panel of counselors, law enforcement officials and local pastors will hold an open forum on Jan. 22 at Westwood Baptist Church to discuss questions many are asking in the wake of the arrest of a former local teacher.

Westwood officials planned the forum, which will address topics related to child safety and sexual predators, a few weeks after Alabaster police arrested former local teacher and bus driver Daniel Acker Jr. and charged him with several counts of molesting children during his 25-year teaching tenure.

In addition to teaching in the city, Acker also served as a substitute bus driver for a few years and was the youth pastor at Westwood in the early 1990s.

“This is in response to that (arrest),” said Westwood Baptist Church Minister to Children Jenny Funderburke. “The safety of all children is on our heart. We want to give everyone an opportunity to be better equipped to prevent and handle things like this while it’s still fresh on our minds.”

The forum will begin at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 22 at the church at 1155 Alabaster Blvd. On Jan. 18, Funderburke said church officials were still finalizing the members of the panel, but said it will include counselors from several local organizations, pastors from Westwood and other area churches and “at least one law enforcement officer.”

Funderburke said the panel will start off by addressing questions such as “How do I talk to my children about abuse?” “How do we protect our children from abuse?” “How do we identify predators?” and “Why do things like this happen?”

“Those are questions we are all asking right now,” Funderburke said.

After the panel discusses the questions, those in attendance will be able to text message questions to the panel members to discuss.