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Lawsuit: Chappell Schools covered up sexual abuse of children, allowed it to continue

Parents of students at the private St. Johns County preschool say the children were molested by former assistant teacher Anthony Guadalupe and the school did nothing

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Parents of nine alleged child victims are suing Chappell Schools after they say the students suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a former assistant teacher.

Anthony Guadalupe, 18, was arrested in July for allegedly molesting a 4-year-old girl at the private preschool’s St. Johns County campus. He worked there between February and July 2022.

His bond was revoked a week later, after prosecutors say classroom surveillance footage showed a “brazen” assault on the child during parent pickup. Guadalupe has not been formally charged but has denied the allegations.  

According to the complaint, filed early Tuesday, Guadalupe either molested the children or made them watch sexual acts. It says parents reported concerns about his conduct to Chappell administrative staff, including screen shots taken of the classroom video livestream, allegedly showing “Guadalupe acting inappropriately.”

Tim Pribisco is one of Guadalupe’s defense attorneys. He gave this statement to First Coast News.

"Mr. Guadalupe is yet to be formally charged. We expect charges to be forthcoming. Until charges are filed, we are not entitled to receive any of the evidence the State seeks to use to prosecute him. While we certainly have an understanding of the basis of the allegations, we cannot rush to judgment without receiving all of the information. We will work tirelessly to ensure that Mr. Guadalupe’s rights are protected and that he is zealously represented throughout this process."

Stacy Vaughan, vice president of programs at the Monique Burr Foundation says classroom cameras help monitor for abuse but aren't a solution.

“As adults we have to look at are all of the things in place that need to be put in place and not jut think. oh, if they do background checks I'm covered or if they have cameras, I'm covered its really more comprehensive than that.
Predators are smart they are manipulative," said Vaughan.

She says for kids who are really young it's about teaching them consent and boundaries.

Vaughan shares an example.

“Your grandmother comes over and wants a hug. Really, we should be asking young children is it okay if I give you a hug, is it okay if I touch your shoulder, and what we are teaching kids is that adults should be asking for permission before touching them," said Vaughan.

The lawsuit says school officials knew about his behavior prior to the incident that eventually led to his arrest.

“During Guadalupe’s employment and at all times material, he on numerous occasions sexually battered the Victims, masturbated in front of them, touched their 3 genitals, and/or made them watch as he sexually battered other victims," it says.

The complaint continues, “One such incident that occurred after Chappell had knowledge, included Guadalupe pulling down one of the victim’s underpants and masturbating in front of several other Victims. This specific incident finally led to Guadalupe’s arrest.”

The complaint claims the school was not transparent about the incidents. “Even after Guadalupe was arrested, Chappell failed to timely disclose Guadalupe’s arrest and the circumstances thereof to multiple parents whose children were exposed to Guadalupe, and actually told parents their children were not victims, thereby delaying the discovery of the additional criminal acts and additional victims. Subsequent evidence has contradicted Chappell’s representations to parents that their children were not victims.”

It says the school was negligent for failing to fire Guadalupe when initially told about the allegations and for allowing the alleged behavior to continue. 

Chappell Schools responded with the following statement:

Yesterday evening we received a complaint with horrible allegations that go far beyond what we know to be factual. There are multiple stories circulating that highlight grossly exaggerated and false allegations.

To be clear, we have been as transparent as possible, assisting the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office as well as the Department of Children and Families since the Anthony Guadalupe incident on 7/18/22. We have been sending regular updates to parents and maintaining an open door to meet with parents in person. The gross allegation that Chappell covered up anything, or attempted to cover up anything, is false and offensive.

We will continue to communicate with families and fully assist SJCSO in its investigation.

Vaughan shares resource links for parents that you can find here that gives more information about keeping your kids safe at schools.

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