Parents, youths rally for Dundalk teacher Marchers show support for instructor charged with abuse, assault

December 14, 1998|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF

About 50 Dundalk children and parents rallied yesterday in support of a third-grade teacher at their community's Logan Elementary School who was charged with child abuse and sexual assault for alleged incidents involving three 9-year-old girls.

Marching around a pavilion at Dundalk Veterans Park off Dundalk Avenue, many of the parents and children talked with affection and fond memories of the accused teacher, Stephen Douglas Vaught, 34, of Parkville. He has denied any improper touching.

They described him as a caring, friendly teacher who often encouraged children with a pat on the back, a high-five or a hug. The school's PTA president, Donna Roberts, asked the group to place yellow ribbons around the school's fence to show support for Vaught.

Vaught was not present at the rally and did not return phone calls. He was arrested Thursday after the girls made accusations to Baltimore County police and social workers that on numerous occasions he had touched their bodies, including private parts, over and under their clothing. They described frequent hugs and sitting on his lap, according to police documents.

Wearing hats and gloves, some parents and children carried signs that read "Mr. Vaught is innocent," "We don't want a 'hug-free' school zone," and "We want our kids taught by the best teacher at Logan -- Mr. Vaught."

One parent, dressed in a Santa Claus costume, held a sign that read, "Don't sit on my lap. Don't hug me. I might get arrested."

Christopher Peterson, 10, a former pupil of Vaught's, walked with fellow classmates carrying a sign that read, "Mr. Vaught has never touched me inappropriately."

"He's an innocent, kind man, who is only guilty of being too kind and caring of the children he teaches," said Christine Alloways, 51, who has one child at the school. "They've destroyed him."

All three girls, whose identities are not being published because of their ages and the nature of the allegations, said they had been in Vaught's class last year and continued to visit his classroom and see him regularly this year, according to police documents.

Vaught began teaching at the school in 1994, according to the parents.

Since the police investigation began Nov. 17, Vaught has been on administrative leave with pay from the Baltimore County school system, officials said.

Calling the allegations against Vaught a "travesty," many parents said they could not understand how the alleged touching incidents could have occurred in Vaught's classroom, which is a partitioned space with more than 100 pupils and dozens of teachers and volunteers nearby.

"It's hard to believe this all came up against him," said Mike Mioduszewski, two of whose three children attend Logan -- including a son in Vaught's class. "You see kids jumping all over him all the time. Kids want to be with him. They love him."

Pub Date: 12/14/98

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