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Abuse Guardians
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Gainesville, FL – In a disturbing turn of events, a Gainesville middle school teacher has been arrested on charges of lewd or lascivious molestation. According to a sworn complaint filed with the Eighth Judicial Circuit, Christopher Charles Chell, a 46-year-old P.E. teacher and coach, allegedly told one of his students that he could be her “secret boyfriend.” Since the initial investigation began, more victims have come forward alleging that Chell molested them while students at St. Patrick Interparish School located at 500 NE 16th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601.

FL Catholic School Teacher Facing Multiple Counts of Child Molestation

Chell, who was fired from his position on February 28, 2024, faces a staggering 10 counts of lewd or lascivious molestation of a victim older than 12 but less than 16 years old. He is currently being held at the Alachua County jail on a $1 million bond.

Assistant Principal Charged with Destroying Evidence and Child Neglect

The case has taken an even more disturbing turn with the arrest of the school’s assistant principal, Ryan Michael Clemens, 41. Clemens has been charged with destroying evidence and child neglect. Court records show he was released from custody on March 14th after posting a $60,000 bond.

According to the sworn complaint, on February 20th, a seventh-grader at the school reported to Clemens that Chell had made inappropriate comments about being her “secret boyfriend.” However, Clemens allegedly believed Chell’s denial and did not take any further action.  However, the very next day, Clemens is said to have overheard Chell telling another employee that he had indeed asked the student to be his “secret boyfriend,” but claimed it was just a joke. Despite being confronted with this conflicting statement, Clemens did not take any further investigative or disciplinary action against Chell. On the same day, the victim’s parents removed her from the school.

It wasn’t until February 23rd that Clemens finally made a report to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). However, in his report, Clemens falsely claimed that Chell had engaged in no wrongdoing and did not ask to be in a secret relationship with the victim.

Mounting Evidence of Sexual Misconduct and Concerns of More Victims

The investigation has uncovered even more troubling allegations. Court documents reveal that on February 26th, three sixth-grade students disclosed to Clemens that Chell had engaged in inappropriate behavior, including “inappropriate statements” and “inappropriate touching while hugging them.” The students also reported that Chell would get upset or mad if they didn’t say “I love you” back to him. Despite these reports, Clemens did not take any action. Officers say another victim was assaulted by Chell the following day.

Gainesville Police Department detectives believe there may be more victims that have not yet been identified and are encouraging anyone with knowledge of the incident or additional victims to come forward and contact them at 352-393-7734.

Response From the Catholic Diocese After Two School Employees Arrested

Chell was terminated on February 28, and Clemens was officially fired on Thursday after authorities discovered his arrest the day prior. As the investigation unfolds, the Catholic Church assures the affected families and the St. Patrick faith community that they are in their prayers and will continue to provide support.

In a letter sent home to parents, Father Lawrence Peck, the spiritual leader of St. Patrick Interparish School, has included vital information on how families can seek assistance during this difficult time. The letter emphasizes the availability of the Diocesan Victim Assistant Coordinator, who can provide support and guidance to those impacted by the case. Additionally, the spiritual care offerings are highlighted to ensure that affected individuals have access to the necessary resources for emotional healing.

The Catholic Church stated, “The diocese, along with its school officials, continues to cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation. We continue to keep the families who have been impacted by this case and the St. Patrick faith community informed and in our prayers.”

Holding Catholic Schools Accountable: Discussing Legal Options for Victims of Teacher Sexual Abuse

In response to the disturbing allegations against a Gainesville middle school teacher and the Catholic school’s assistant principal, it is important to go over the rights of the victims and how to ensure accountability. We sat down with Michael Haggard, Esq., an experienced Florida school sexual abuse lawyer, to get his insights on the matter.

Laurence Banville, Esq. (LB): We’re joined now by Michael Haggard, Esq., a local Florida school sexual abuse lawyer, to discuss both the legal rights available for children who have been sexually abused by a teacher and how to hold negligent Catholic schools accountable.

Michael Haggard, Esq. (MH): Thank you for having me, Laurence. This is a deeply disturbing case, and unfortunately, it’s not an isolated incident. Children who are sexually abused by teachers often suffer long-lasting trauma and deserve justice.

LB: What legal options are available for the victims and their families in cases like this?

MH: The victims have several legal avenues they can pursue. First and foremost, they can file civil lawsuits against the teacher for the sexual abuse they endured. Additionally, they may be able to hold the school accountable for negligence in failing to protect the students.

LB: Can you explain how the school could be held liable in a case like this?

MH: Schools have a duty of care to protect their students from harm, including sexual abuse by teachers. When a school official is aware of the inappropriate behavior but fails to take appropriate action, they can be held liable. This could be grounds for a negligence lawsuit against the school.

LB: What kind of damages could the victims and their families seek in a civil lawsuit?

MH: The victims in this case could potentially seek compensation for a range of damages, including medical expenses, therapy and counseling costs, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. In cases of egregious misconduct, punitive damages may also be awarded to punish the perpetrator and deter similar behavior in the future.

LB: What advice would you give to parents and guardians who suspect their child may have been a victim of sexual abuse by a teacher?

MH: My advice would be to act quickly and decisively. Document any evidence, report the abuse to the authorities, and seek the guidance of an experienced sexual abuse attorney. It’s also crucial to provide the child with the necessary support and resources to help them heal and recover.

LB: Thank you, Michael, for your helpful insight on the legal options available for the victims and their families. It’s clear that holding both the perpetrator and the negligent school accountable is essential in cases like this.

MH: You’re welcome, Laurence. I hope this information helps victims and their families in their pursuit of justice and healing.

Free Consultations for Survivors of Catholic School Sex Abuse

For victims and their families grappling with the aftermath of such horrific situations, it’s crucial to know that you are not alone. If your child has been the victim of sexual abuse by a teacher or other Catholic school employee, we urge you to reach out today for a free consultation to discuss your legal options. Our team of experienced sexual abuse attorneys will guide you through the process of seeking justice and accountability. Remember, you have rights, and there are resources available to help you and your family heal and move forward. Contact us today to take the first step.


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