Two female teachers who were arrested on suspicion of having sex with male high school students during a camping trip to the beach were charged Wednesday with providing alcohol to minors.
Melody Lippert, 38, and Michelle Ghirelli, 30, were each charged with one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for allegedly supplying alcohol to the students, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of one year in jail.
Prosecutors investigated allegations that the duo had sex with students during an overnight camping trip to a San Clemente beach, but found insufficient evidence to file charges.
“If there’s other evidence that surfaces, we could still charge" on the sexual allegations, said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for the district attorney’s office.
Additional charges may loom as investigators look into “other allegations” against the pair, Schroeder said.
Lippert, a teacher at South Hills High School in West Covina, and Ghirelli, an employee at the Covina-Valley Unified School District, went on a camping trip with five students between Dec. 27 and Dec. 29, prosecutors said.
A student Ghirelli is accused of having sex with was under 18 years old, while Lippert allegedly had sex with a student who was 18, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
The women were arrested Jan. 17, with Lippert booked on suspicion of conspiracy and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Ghirelli faced possible charges of oral copulation and unlawful sex with a minor. Both were released after posting bail.
The sex between Ghirelli and the minor was not in dispute, but Ghirelli provided various reasons why she thought the boy was 18, Deputy Dist. Atty. Kristin Bracic said.
The Covina-Valley Unified School District said in a statement it was “shocked” by the decision.
“However, we recognize that the investigation is continuing and additional charges could be forthcoming,” the statement said.
Lippert and Ghirelli remain on paid administrative leave, school district spokeswoman Michelle Van Der Linden told The Times.
The district has launched an investigation into the incident, and the school board will review a draft statement of charges for dismissal at the board’s next meeting.
Lippert and Ghirelli are scheduled to be arraigned Friday in a Newport Beach courtroom.
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