Oprah Apologizes to Parents at South African School

A tearful Oprah Winfrey apologized to parents at her South African Leadership Academy for underprivileged girls amid allegations that a dorm parent abused one of the students, according to local news reports.

"I've disappointed you. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry," she said, the South African news site News24.com reported.

The talk show queen has traveled to the academy twice in the last few weeks and has met with concerned parents there, according to a spokeswoman for Winfrey.

South African police are investigating an allegation that a school employee abused one of the students, a police spokeswoman told ABC News. Tummi Golding of the South Africa Police Service said a dorm parent at the school was being investigated on suspicion of "indecent assault."

Golding would not elaborate on the details of the allegation, but the local Afrikaans-language paper Rapport reported that the employee allegedly "fondled" one of the students. The paper also reported that the school worker allegedly grabbed a student by the throat and threw her against a wall.

No criminal charges have been filed, and a spokeswoman for Winfrey would not confirm or deny the allegation.

The case is being handled by investigators in the child abuse division of the local police, Golding said. Winfrey has also brought on her own team of American private investigators, led by a veteran of the Cook County Sheriff's child exploitation unit, Robert Farley.

In 1997, Farley created the unit, the first of its kind in the country to focus on child predators who solicit children on the Internet.

The police investigation follows an internal academy investigation of alleged "misconduct" by a dorm parent. Last week, John Samuel, CEO of the academy, said in a statement that the dorm parent had been removed from the school, and that the school had notified South African Child Protective Services of the alleged misconduct.

"Nothing is more serious or devastating to me than an allegation of misconduct by an adult against any girl at the academy," Winfrey said in a statement. "I will do everything within my power to ensure their safety and well-being."

Winfrey traveled to South Africa the weekend before last, reportedly missing a planned appearance at an awards show. She returned again Friday, and met with parents over the weekend at the academy, in Henley-on-Klip, not far south of Johannesburg. A spokeswoman would not say when Winfrey first heard of the allegation.

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