‘Precautionary Sweep’ of South Royalton School Finds No Suspicious Recording Devices

  • Dean Stearns, of Sharon, Vt., speaks with defense attorney Michael Shane on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, at Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction, Vt. Stearns, who is the principal of South Royalton High School, is charged with voyeurism and promoting a recording of sexual conduct for allegedly recording a juvenile in the bathroom at his home. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/1/2017 4:00:52 PM

South Royalton — South Royalton School officials are seeking to reassure parents about their children’s safety after Principal Dean Stearns was charged with secretly recording video of a teenage girl in her bedroom and bathroom while she was staying at his Sharon home.

The White River Valley Supervisory Union had several counselors at the school on Friday under the direction of William Ketterer, a psychologist, Superintendent Bruce Labs said.

“We’ve had counselors in the school ... and the kids today have been encouraged to reach out if they want to talk, or to reach out to other adults if they want to talk,” Labs said in a phone interview.

A letter to the school community from Labs on Friday also spelled out hotline resources available over the weekend. School officials told parents the Clara Martin Emergency Hotline number, 1-800-639-6390, would connect them to an emergency clinician.

“If you believe that your student needs additional support, please reach out to the school or SU administration,” Labs wrote. “Our community is strong and supportive. We will heal.”

The outreach came a day after Stearns was placed on paid leave after school authorities learned he was facing charges.

Stearns, 55, pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon in Windsor Superior Court to a felony charge of promoting a sexual recording and a misdemeanor charge of voyeurism.

Authorities said Stearns acknowledged to police investigators that he had used three hidden cameras to secretly record the girl and then downloaded the video footage onto his computer, according to a police affidavit.

Because of the alleged use of hidden cameras, Vermont State Police inspected the South Royalton School building on Thursday but did not find any unauthorized recording devices or cameras, officials said.

State Police Detective Sgt. Richard Holden said in an email to the Valley News that “nothing suspicious was found. This sweep was a precautionary sweep only. There was no evidence of anything at the school.”

Labs also said nothing of concern was found at the school, which serves students in grades pre-K to 12.

“The kids are safe,” Labs said.

Before being hired as principal in South Royalton in 2014, Stearns worked for six years as the technical education director at River Bend Career and Technical Center in Bradford, Vt., and before that spent 11 years as the coordinator of work experiences for the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center.

Stearns has been released on a $15,000 unsecured appearance bond, and is not allowed to have contact with minors under the age of 18, except for his grandchildren.

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