A teacher at Chariho High School was arraigned on several sex charges Tuesday, accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student. Similar charges were also filed against a second teacher who recently resigned.
According to police, officers arrested Paul LaFrance, 53, at his West Greenwich home at 6:30 Tuesday morning on one count of indecent solicitation of a child and two counts of third-degree sexual assault.
He did not enter a plea at his arraignment in Washington County District Court and released on $10,000 personal recognizance.
Police said a second man, John Wedlock, 52, of Wakefield, turned himself in to police later that day, and was arraigned on a felony charge of indecent solicitation of a child. He was released on $50,000 personal recognizance.
According to the school’s website, LaFrance is a business teacher. School Superintendent Barry Ricci told Eyewitness News Wedlock was a science teacher before he abruptly resigned in September.
Police told Eyewitness News they started to investigate after a student’s mother told administrators and the school resource officer she believed her daughter – who was between the ages of 14 to 16 – was having an inappropriate relationship with Wedlock.
As part of the investigation, members of the Rhode Island State Police Internet Crimes Against Children task force conducted a forensic audit on electronic devices, which police say revealed LaFrance as a second suspect, as well as sexually explicit content and communications which police said “constituted both men knowingly soliciting, urging or requesting a person they knew to be under the age of 18 to engage in sexual acts.”
Police said the alleged crimes did not happen on school property and there was no evidence any other students were involved.
Ricci said LaFrance is currently suspended with pay, though he said he took steps today to change that status. He said he plans to pursue the district’s non-fraternization policy “with vigor” and seek the teacher’s termination.
“My initial reaction is one of anger. I think we have this awesome responsibility as educators and this trust between educator and student has been broken,” Ricci said. “I’ve worked closely with these individuals. Never in a million years would I have suspected them.”
Ricci said faculty has been informed and he’s given his staff permission to address questions posed by students.
“I really encouraged them to think tonight what tomorrow will bring because our students will know tomorrow and our students will come with many questions,” Ricci said. “We’re not going to pretend it didn’t happen.”