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2 teachers accused of having sex with high school students at beach

Two high school teachers with the Covina-Valley Unified School District have been arrested on suspicion of having sexual relations with students at the beach in San Clemente.

South Hills High School teacher Melody Lippert allegedly met a group of male students in November at the beach, where she gave them alcohol and “engaged in a sexual relationship with one of them,” according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

A few weeks later, Lippert allegedly set up an overnight camping trip to the same beach with some students along with Michelle Ghirelli, who had taught at South Hills before being assigned to work in the school district's offices. The two women are suspected of having sexual relations with the students during that trip, which was not sponsored by the school.

Lippert, 38, was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy and contributing to the delinquency of a minor and is being held in lieu of $20,000 bail. Ghirelli, 30, faces possible charges of oral copulation and unlawful sex with a minor and has a $50,000 bail.

Both women had been released from custody by Sunday afternoon, according to an Orange County jail website. They are scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday.

In a statement, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said it was not releasing any additional information about the students or the alleged sexual relationships. The department said it was first informed about the allegations Friday by the West Covina Police Department.

Covina-Valley Unified School District spokeswoman Michelle Van Der Linden said both women had been put on paid administrative leave and removed from the classroom as of Sunday.

"As soon as we found out about this, we contacted the Police Department. We're taking the matter very, very seriously," Van Der Linden said. A voice message from the South Hills High principal was sent to parents at the school Sunday to inform them of the developments, she added.

The arrests come less than two weeks after West Covina police arrested a part-time wrestling coach assigned to South Hills High on allegations of inappropriate contact with a 17-year-old student. Van Der Linden said 29-year-old Anthony Vidales was put on leave after his arrest.

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