Anger and Outrage in Bradford - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Anger and Outrage in Bradford

Bradford, Vermont - September 18, 2007

Emotions ran deep inside the high school auditorium, where more than 200 people gathered to share their anger, fear and concern for their kids.

"My daughter is very confused by this," said parent Kana Johnson. "These are their classmates, these are their friends, they don't really know what to do with this information. They're feeling a lot of anger, and they're feeling scared."

Richard Foster, 51, is facing multiple felony charges for allegedly molesting a former student. He had been a sixth grade teacher at Bradford Elementary School for more than a decade and taught in the district for more than 20 years.

"There is no evidence that any information consistent with the alleged activity has ever been reported to school officials during that 20-year employment history," said Bradford School Superintendent Wendy Hovey. "Our personal responses are best characterized as shock and unmitigated anguish."

But several parents said there had been warning signs.

"It was not a shock to everyone," said parent Dan Kelly. "People in this community saw it. We let our kids down, myself included. I think enough people had concerns that somebody should have come forward."

Grandmother Rose Duffy agreed: "I watched him and all the signs were there. I can't believe nobody took this. I even went to the legal authorities and asked about Mr. Foster and they said to me no, no, do you have any evidence? If I had any evidence, I'd be at the police station with it."

Other parents warned against pointing a finger at the school. Police said it was tempting to look back and connect the dots, but said that pedophiles are often skilled at earning people's trust.

"Part of the responsibility is ours, too. I'm looking at myself and wondering why I didn't see it," said parent Sharon McCallie-Stelier. "We're a community and this is about all of us. It's not just about pointing the finger."

"We're kicking ourselves sitting here and trying to blame. There's only one person to blame, and he's in the hospital and he's going to jail," another parent, Melissa Perry said to applause.

While it seems Richard Foster has already been convicted in the court of public opinion, it's important to note that at this point, these are just charges. He has not yet been in court. He remains hospitalized after a suicide attempt this weekend. During an arraignment Monday, his lawyer entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.

Several parents at the meeting voiced concerns that there may be more victims. Police said that's certainly a possibility, but their investigation is now only four days old, and it's likely more evidence may come forward.

Kate Duffy - WCAX News

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