RICHMOND, R.I. (WPRI) — The school community in Richmond is feeling mixed emotions after a former teacher and current teacher were arrested on felony sex charges, allegedly involving a student.
“I think like everybody else I was surprised by it,” Catherine Giusti, school committee parent liaison said.
“My initial reaction is one of anger,” Superintendent Barry Ricci said. “The other emotion is shock. Because I had no indication whatsoever.”
Both men were longtime employees of Chariho High School. John Wedlock, 52, was a science teacher, and Paul LaFrance, 53, a business teacher. And both never had problems before in the school district.
“You can run all the background checks in the world, but, if somebody doesn’t have an issue, then it’s never going to show up,” Bill Day, school committee chair said.
But in September, Wedlock abruptly resigned.
Just weeks later, Richmond Police said the victim’s mother made a complaint to school administration claiming of an inappropriate relationship between Wedlock and her teenage daughter. The investigation later led detectives to a second suspect, LaFrance.
“These are teachers. They’re supposed to be taking care of our children. You leave your children in their care for six and half hours a day, and to think that someone has breached that trust with a child, I think everybody is just appalled by it,” Giusti added.
And Superintendent Barry Ricci is just as appalled, but wants the school community to know this is not a reflection on his faculty and staff. He also said they will have to address questioning students in the day ahead.
“We want to be professional about it and we’re not going to pretend that it didn’t happen, but, I can’t take responsibility for the actions of someone for whom they’re no responsible.”
LaFrance is on unpaid leave while the investigation continues.
Both LaFrance and Wedlock were arraigned Tuesday and released on personal recognizance.
The school committee said they will take action pending the outcome of the investigation.