WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The alleged crimes occurred inside Rosarian Academy, West Palm Beach police say, at the hands of 51-year old Stephen Budd. Parents who were close with Budd years ago are shocked.
"Yes, my daughter was in his class," said 'Steven', who did not want to publicize his last name, in fear of identifying his daughter. "I got sick to my stomach because you never know now." 'Steven' said his daughter was a fourth grade student of Stephen Budd at Rosarian Academy in 2006 and 2007.
West Palm Beach police say that is when the suspect would use what he called "Budd Bucks", offering rewards of candy to at least two female students in exchange for sexual acts.
'Steven' says neither he nor his daughter knew anything about any alleged abuse. "She was shocked," he said. "She was almost in tears because that's not the teacher that she had."
Investigators say the two known victims are now 14 and 15 years old. One of the girls recently came forward with her allegations after she said Budd tried to contact her through social media. The girl's parents went to police.
"He is a serial offender," said Chief Vince Demasi, of the West Palm Beach Police Department. "We're very confident that there are additional victims out there," he said.
After leaving Rosarian Academy in 2007, Budd took a job at South Tech Academy, charter school in Boynton Beach. Administrators there quickly placed Budd on leave pending the outcome of his case.
"Everything that we had known about him and everything that we found when we vetted him, background check and everything came out real good," said South Tech Academy President Jim Kidd.
Rosarian Academy says it is working with law enforcement on this case. Budd is charged with sexual assault, battery, cruelty toward a child, among other charges. He remains at the Palm Beach County jail.
Below is a statement released from Virginia Devine, Principal of Rosarian Academy:
" Rosarian Academy's leadership was shocked and distressed to learn yesterday of disturbing allegations against a former teacher at the school by two of our alums. We are cooperating fully with local law enforcement in the investigation so that the facts associated with this alleged incident dating back to the 2006-2007 school year are brought to light as quickly and comprehensively as possible.
Nothing is more important to us at Rosarian Academy than the safety and well-being of our students. Nurturing their healthy growth and intellectual and spiritual development has been at the core of the school's mission since 1925. We have in place procedures and protocols for interviewing prospective faculty and checking their background and references. As more information comes to light, we will continue to keep the Rosarian family and our community fully informed about this serious matter. Our prayers are with the families involved."