School safety discussed in wake of teacher sex allegations - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

School safety discussed in Burlington in wake of teacher sex allegations

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When Burlington High School Spanish teacher Giovanna Yaranga was charged with having sex with one of her students, many BHS parents thought the worst.

"As a mom it scared me," mom Sue Reardon said. "I send my child to school every day thinking, 'Oh, I hope he is going to be safe. Oh, I hope he is going to learn.'"

Reardon is not only a BHS mom, she's also been in education for decades and says there's no excuse for the alleged behavior.

"The teachers, educators, they know. I can't believe that there would ever be an educator that says, 'Gee, I didn't know that wasn't appropriate,'" Reardon said.

Monday, Reardon joined parents and teachers at BHS to talk about their safety concerns with Principal Amy Mellencamp in the wake of the allegations.

"I am in charge of this building. I can't go into the specifics of the investigation, but as soon as I had information, I acted on it," Mellencamp said.

Mellencamp used the hour-long back and forth to start a dialogue with parents over what can be done to do a better job protecting students.

She says district policies on appropriate teacher-student behavior are being reviewed and she's accepting suggestions. She reminded parents that there are mandatory reporting laws for her staff and that often uncovering a problem takes help from students.

"What I have learned is that students coming forward is really important. That's the only way sometimes that we get knowledge of a situation and we do our best work when we are told something is wrong," Mellencamp said.

Parents urged administrators to be honest with students about their safety and to make sure that BHS teachers are getting the support and attention they need, as well. Reardon says the open conversation could go a long way to preventing future problems.

"Even though it might only have been one person that has stepped over the bounds, maybe there have been more, maybe this will be a wake-up call," Reardon said.

Yaranga denies the allegations and has pleaded not guilty to having a sexual relationship with her student. She is on paid leave and is due back in court July 9.

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