West Covina students return to class after teacher sex scandal

WEST COVINA, Calif. (KABC) -- Students returned to South Hills High School Tuesday after two Covina-Valley Unified School District teachers were arrested over the weekend for allegedly having sex with students.

Melody Lippert, 38, and Michelle Ghirelli, 30, were arrested Saturday. They were booked into Orange County Jail on $20,000 and $50,000 bail, respectively. They were scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday.

Investigators said in November, Lippert, an English teacher at South Hills, allegedly provided alcohol to a group of male students during a camping trip she organized to San Clemente State Beach, and had sexual relations with one of the teen boys.

A few weeks later, authorities said Lippert organized a second camping trip at the same beach with many of the same students, but this time she also invited Ghirelli, also a teacher with the district.

According to officials, the women engaged in sexual relations with two students during that second trip, which was not sponsored by the school.

"I just think that it's really inappropriate. It's kind of embarrassing for the school," said Nicole Perez, a junior at South Hills.

Lippert was arrested for conspiracy and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and Ghirelli was arrested for oral copulation and unlawful sex with a minor.

"We're taking it very seriously and reviewing our policies and procedures as far as how students and teachers interact with each other and again, taking it very seriously," said Michelle Van Der Linden with the Covina-Valley Unified School District.

Both are on administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.

Lippert's neighbors had nothing but kind words to say about her.

"They've got three children, and they're really parenting their children. I never see the children in the street," said neighbor Jean-Claude Roseren.

The two arrests came nearly two weeks after the arrest of a part-time wrestling coach within the district. Anthony Vidales, 29, of Covina was arrested Jan. 7 on suspicion of a sex-related incident with a 17-year-old student. Vidales was a walk-on coach for the South Hills High School varsity girl's wrestling team. He has since posted $20,000 bail.

"Three people in the last like two weeks, so now everyone in the district knows what's going on here and everyone is talking about it. So, it's weird," said Marisa Fuentes, a senior at South Hills.

Investigators are concerned there may be more victims. Anyone with additional information was asked to call the Orange County Sheriff's Department at (714) 647-7000 or (714) 647-7418.

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