ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A lawsuit was filed Monday against Chappell Schools following the arrest last month of a former assistant teacher who’s accused of molesting a 4-year-old at the private preschool’s campus in St. Johns County.
Anthony Guadalupe, 18, is charged with one count of lewd and lascivious molestation on a child younger than 12 years old. But an attorney representing multiple families says there are actually nine victims.
Guadalupe is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit filed in St. Johns County against the Chappell Schools’ Longleaf campus, both the CEO and school director were either aware or should have been aware of complaints by parents about Guadalupe. The parents allege he had been acting inappropriately around preschool children between February and July while working as a teacher’s assistant. The lawsuit says that during that time frame, there were multiple occasions in which Guadalupe molested different children in the classroom in front of the other children. The lawsuit also says Guadalupe performed lewd sex acts in class in front of the children.
The attorney representing the parents of nine young students says that prior to Guadalupe’s arrest, multiple parents had reported concerns about Guadalupe to school administrators. Parents who send their children to the school have access to both a live and recorded video feed from their child’s classrooms. According to the lawsuit, several parents sent images from the video feed to the administrative staff to report what they deemed as inappropriate behavior by Guadalupe.
In July, the parent of a 4-year-old girl told investigators that as he entered a classroom to pick up his daughter, he noticed she was pulling up her underwear. When he and school staff reviewed surveillance video from the classroom, according to investigators, video showed Guadalupe fondling the child while appearing to perform a sex act in front of her classmates. Guadalupe, who the school said is no longer an employee, was arrested in connection with that incident, authorities said. Then days after he bonded out of the St. Johns County jail, a judge revoked Guadalupe’s bond and ordered him to remain locked up until his case goes to trial.
The attorney representing the parents of the 4-year-old girl says that after Guadalupe was arrested, at least eight other children have come forward and said they were inappropriately touched. The Department of Children and Families has interviewed all of them, and months of video footage are being reviewed by DCF and law enforcement.
The attorney representing the families of the nine children said he expects the state attorney’s office to file more charges in this case.
The attorney also issued this statement on Tuesday:
“We represent several St. Johns County families who have been impacted by the actions taken by an employee of Chappell Schools. Nine of those families are currently named anonymously in a civil lawsuit against Chappell Schools. The remaining families may be joined in the near future. We have faith that the civil and criminal process will bring justice for these families. The allegations of the Complaint speak for themselves as to the liability and conduct of Chappell Schools. We ask the public to appreciate the sensitive nature of this matter and to respect the families’ wishes to remain anonymous. If there are additional victims, they should contact the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. We do not wish to comment further.”
News4JAX spoke with two parents who pulled their children out of the school. They both said their children were not in Guadalupe’s class but felt the school was not being transparent about what happened.
News4JAX reached out to the CEO of the school for comment and has not heard back.