Community stunned at principal accused of secret recordings

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SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt. (WCAX) "I'm horrified-- horrified," parent Amadee Locke said.

Parents at the South Royalton School were stunned at the recent arrest of their principal, Dean Stearns.

"It probably ruins a lot of the reputation around the Royalton area," said Jenna Farrington of South Royalton.

Stearns led the school for nearly four years and is a former president of the Executive Council at the Vermont Principal's Association. But now, he's accused of secretly videotaping a 16-year-old girl at his home using multiple hidden cameras.

"Two were in the bathroom, one was in a bedroom," Vt. State Police Det. Sgt. Michael Dion said.

Police say the longtime educator lives at this Sharon log home with his wife. Cops were called there after the girl discovered the devices, which were allegedly disguised as a phone charger, clock and nightlight.

"They are intended to be secretive so that you wouldn't know it just by looking at these items," Dion said.

Authorities say the teen plugged one of them into her computer and saw videos of herself in the bathroom.

Reporter Tyler Dumont: Is there any reason to think that there may have been other victims?
Det. Sgt. Michael Dion: There's no evidence at this time.

There was no answer at Stearns' door Friday.

In an interview with police a day earlier, Stearns allegedly admitted to recording the girl, saying he found her attractive. He later appeared in court, pleading not guilty to charges of voyeurism and promoting sexual recordings.

"I have a 17-year-old daughter that goes to this school, and she's beautiful, so yeah, it's scary," Locke said.

The White River Valley superintendent declined to go on camera with us but confirmed Stearns has been placed on paid administrative leave. We've also learned the principal had already submitted his resignation prior to these allegations and had been planning to leave at the end of this school year.

The superintendent says Vermont State Police also searched the South Royalton School and no unauthorized recording devices or cameras were found.

Counselors are being offered to students and staff.