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Former Seattle teacher's assistant charged with child rape

According to the Seattle school district, Albert Virachismith, 40, worked at John Muir Elementary as an instructional aide last year, when the alleged crimes occurred. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE – A former teacher's aide is in jail accused of child rape, and detectives are running down leads at nine Seattle schools to see if other students have been victimized.

According to the Seattle school district, Albert Virachismith, 40, worked at John Muir Elementary as an instructional aide last year, when the alleged crimes occurred. The child was attacked on half a dozen occasions in the school bathroom, detectives said, adding that the suspect also used threats of violence to keep the child from reporting the alleged molestation.

In charging documents, prosecutors pointed out that Virachismith took advantage of a school rule that only one child could be in the bathroom at a time. He waited for his victim to be alone and isolated to commit the rapes, the court papers said.

It was only this school year that the victim felt safe enough to report the alleged assaults to a parent, because the suspect no longer worked at the campus.

However, Virachismith started substitute teaching at various sites during this school year. District officials said the suspect had access to thousands of children during that time. Detectives are now checking out leads at nine different schools to see if anyone else was victimized.

Virachismith remains in jail on $500,000 bond. He is set to be arraigned on February 15.

A Seattle Public Schools spokesperson said they only learned about the rape allegations late last month, and quickly notified parents at all nine campuses tied to the investigation.

This is the email they sent to families whose children attend John Muir Elementary:

Dear John Muir Elementary families:

This letter is being sent home to all John Muir Elementary families to share important information about a serious allegation and our commitment to student safety.

This week, we were notified that a student at John Muir Elementary had allegedly been sexually assaulted last year by an instructional assistant. While the alleged assaults took place at John Muir Elementary, where the instructional assistant worked full time last year, the student did not tell their parents about it until last Friday. Thankfully, the family immediately contacted law enforcement.

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) began its investigation over the weekend. When the District received the information on Monday, it took swift action against the alleged perpetrator, Mr. Albert Virachismith, to prevent him from being in contact with students and restricted his access to any district property until the SPD criminal investigation is complete. He is not currently working in any Seattle schools. The District also started its own administrative investigation and is coordinating its efforts with the SPD. Last night, the SPD notified us that Mr. Albert Virachismith was placed under arrest and is in custody.

The SPD advised the District that detectives may need to talk to students as they continue to investigate. SPD Detective Anthony Belgarde has been assigned to this case, and I understand he will contact families directly before interviewing any students.

This is difficult news, and we understand you will want to talk to your child about this case. We want to do everything possible to help the police conduct a thorough investigation.

The SPD asks parents to avoid asking leading questions that could interfere with the police investigation. If your student indicates on their own that he or she may have been touched inappropriately, contact Detective Belgarde at anthony.belgarde@seattle.gov.

The district is preparing additional information for our school for how to talk with your children about personal safety. Other resources you can access are the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center at 888-998-6423 and Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress for information and help at 206-744-1600.

If you have questions or concerns that I can help address, please contact me at 206-252-7400 or bmballcuthbe@seattleschools.org.

Sincerely,

Brenda Ball Cuthbertson, Principal

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