Teacher who was accused of tickling and massaging girls loses license

A Palm Beach County middle school teacher who was accused by three 11-year-old girls of touching their hair, massaging and tickling has been banned from teaching in Florida again.

Russell Vacherlon, 64, opted to surrender his teaching license rather than fight an effort by the Education Practices Commission to discipline him. The action became final last month, the website shows.

Vacherlon, a keyboarding teacher at Christa McAuliffe Middle, west of Boynton Beach, was charged with misdemeanor battery in 2019 and remained in a school district job with no student contact for 18 months. He agreed to a pretrial intervention in May 2021 where the charges were dropped if he resigned from his teaching job, agreed to pay a $100 fine and performed 25 hours of community service.

He couldn’t be reached for comment, despite attempts by phone on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A district police investigation began in November 2018, when Jeffrey Silverman, then principal at Christa McAuliffe, alerted a school district police detective that several students complained that Vacherlon “was touching them in a way that made them feel uncomfortable,” according to a district police report.

“The allegations of inappropriate touch included running fingers through students’ hair, massaging their shoulders and backs, rubbing their thighs, rubbing their lower legs, and tickling the belly of one student,” the police report said.

One 11-year girl at the school told a detective that Vacherlon “walked up to her during class, stood next to her chair, crouched down, and reached down to pat the center of her thigh, saying, ‘You’re wearing shorts today,’” the police report said.

On another occasion, the girl reported that Vacherlon stood behind her as she was seated at a keyboard and rested his right forearm across the back of her chest and leaned down, the report said.

“He then reached two fingers (his pointer and middle fingers) of his left hand into the left sleeve of her polo shirt, touching her front, upper arm, working his fingers in and towards her arm-pit area, reaching her bra-strap (which had slipped down slightly as the strap was loose), and pushing her bra-strap up and onto her shoulder, while holding the area of the strap where it joins the fabric which covers her chest/breast area in the front,” the girl told police.

The student said she pulled away from him, and put her hand up to motion him to stop, leading Vacherlon to remove his fingers.

Another 11-year-old girl reported that Vacherlon “sometimes came over to her while she was sitting there typing, and tickled her belly. … When he tickled her, he said something like, ‘Good girl,’” the report said.

A third 11-year-old girl reported that Vacherlon “hit her on her butt five or more times with a clipboard, or his hand.”

The girl said that one time, Vacherlon “came up behind her while she was seated, and placed his hands on the sides of her body by her rib cage, rubbing his hands up and down. She said he then ran his hands down her body to her hips, and eventually onto her upper thighs, where he rubbed his hands along her thighs.”

Vacherlon told a detective that “whatever happened was 100% unintentional. … I’m very well aware of what you should be doing and what you shouldn’t be doing,” a report said.

Vacherlon admitted to touching students’ hair, the report said.

“I have, especially when students are making up their hair and I have to separate them and tell them you shouldn’t be making up your hair in the classroom,” he told a police detective, according to a report.

Asked if he ever adjusted a girl’s bra strap, he said her remembered a time when a strap “slipped down on her arm and he moved her shirt over to cover the bra strap. He said he did that so that the “boys wouldn’t mess with her,” the report said.

When questioned whether he’d rubbed any student on the thigh, he said “he would just go ahead and say ‘yes’ because he just wanted to go along and get this thing (the investigation) over with,” the report said.

Regarding the allegation that he tickled a girl on the belly, he said he remembered a girl “wore a shirt that was too short, so he tickled her belly to show her that her shirt was too short,” the report said.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Vacherlon moved to Nashville after leaving Palm Beach County and took a job as a customer service agent for the Grand Ole Opry is 2021. His profile also lists him as retired.

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