Teacher enters plea to child abuse, resigns

July 20, 1999|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

A third-grade teacher at Logan Elementary School in Dundalk entered an Alford plea yesterday to child abuse involving three of his former female pupils and resigned from his job.

Stephen Douglas Vaught, 35, of the 8500 block of Harris Ave. in Parkville was charged with three counts of child abuse in December after three 9-year-old girls in his class told police he had inappropriately touched them. In front of Baltimore County Circuit Judge Alexander Wright, Vaught entered an Alford plea to one count of child abuse, which means he declined to admit guilt but conceded prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.

"He denies and vehemently disputes the allegations," said Thomas C. Morrow, Vaught's attorney. "But he's electing to plead guilty to avoid a trial and avoid the risk of conviction."

Vaught will be sentenced Sept. 20. The state is recommending a sentence ranging from probation to three years in jail.

"He knows what he did wrong," said Assistant State's Attorney Sue Hazlett. "But I also understand that he was extremely popular, and it's a very difficult thing in the face of such popularity to admit that you are a child abuser."

According to police documents, the girls -- whose names aren't being published because of their ages and the nature of the allegations -- said that Vaught touched them over and under their clothing on numerous occasions between August 1997 and November 1998.

The girls were in Vaught's class in the 1997-1998 school year and continued to visit him this past school year, police documents say.

One condition of the Alford plea was that Vaught, who has worked for Baltimore County public schools since August 1995, resign. The school system placed him on administrative leave with pay when the investigation began Nov. 17.

Vaught's resignation will not be official until the Baltimore County school board votes on whether to accept it at its Aug. 10 meeting, said Charles A. Herndon, Baltimore County schools spokesman.

Morrow said he's unsure of Vaught's employment plans.

The state dismissed two charges of child abuse and a July 12 charge of possession of child pornography that alleged that Vaught downloaded a pornographic picture of a child on his school computer. A school worker discovered the picture July 8.

The police have seized Vaught's home computer and are searching it for child pornography.

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