Nine families sue St. Johns private preschool following arrest of employee for molesting child

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Nine St. Johns County families are suing a private early-learning school following the arrest of one of its day care employees.

Action News Jax first told you when deputies arrested Anthony Guadalupe, 18, for lewd and lascivious behavior toward a victim younger than 12 years old.


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Now, a lawsuit said not one child but nine were sexually battered at the hands of Guadalupe between February 1 and July 1 this year at Chappell Schools’ Longleaf campus.

Deputies said Guadalupe was arrested after one victim’s father noticed his daughter readjusting her underwear after the school day. The arrest report says a review of live classroom footage revealed Guadalupe inappropriately touching the child and himself, leading to his arrest.

Attorneys are going after the school, its CEO, and director for allegedly ignoring reported concerns, failing to supervise Guadalupe, failing to protect the children’s well-being and more.

The ten-count complaint alleges direct negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress by the school and its leaders, while seeking more than $30,000 in damages.

Action News Jax law and safety expert Dale Carson said winning this kind of case is a challenge.

“The difficulty in a case like this is that when somebody commits a crime it doesn’t necessarily fall on the employer to have prevented that criminal act,” Carson said.

However, he said with a growing number of victims, it’s possible.

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“There’s certainly a prospect, a good prospect perhaps given the number of alleged victims,” Carson said.

The lawsuit specifically stated “by virtue of the employer/employee relationship, Chappell assisted in completing these wrongful acts.”

Among the ten counts, the lawsuit said the parents and victims have lost the parent/child companionship as a result of the school’s actions. The lawsuit also stated the parents of the victims will incur medical and psychological expenses.

“You may have and certainly would bring an action that says essentially because of this individual’s conduct, my child is suffering, I suffer as a result,” Carson said.

The lawsuit said the victims themselves have suffered damages including pain and suffering, mental anguish, and expenses of future therapy and medical care.

Action News Jax reached out to the law firm, Woolsey Morcom, PLLC, and Fusco Law Group, which are suing the school. We were emailed this statement:

“We represent several St. Johns County families who have been impacted by the actions taken by an employee of Chappell Schools. Nine of those families are currently named anonymously in a civil lawsuit against Chappell Schools. The remaining families may be joined in the near future. We have faith that the civil and criminal process will bring justice for these families. The allegations of the Complaint speak for themselves as to the liability and conduct of Chappell Schools. We ask the public to appreciate the sensitive nature of this matter and to respect the families’ wishes to remain anonymous. If there are additional victims, they should contact the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. We do not wish to comment further.”

We also reached out to the school and received the following statement from Melanie Williams, the CEO of Chappell Schools:

“Yesterday evening we received a complaint with horrible allegations that go far beyond what we know to be factual. There are multiple stories circulating that highlight grossly exaggerated and false allegations.

To be clear, we have been as transparent as possible, assisting the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office as well as the Department of Children and Families since the Anthony Guadalupe incident on 7/18/22. We have been sending regular updates to parents and maintaining an open door to meet with parents in person. The gross allegation that Chappell covered up anything, or attempted to cover up anything, is false and offensive.

We will continue to communicate with families and fully assist SJCSO in its investigation.

Anthony Guadalupe was not employed with Chappell until nearly March. His employment commenced on February 28, 2022.”

It is important to note that Guadalupe has only been arrested on charges pertaining to one victim.

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