Letter to Pace parents says investigation took years

3:48 PM, Oct 30, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- A new letter was sent home to parents of Pace Academy students Tuesday, a day after a teacher there was arrested for possession of child pornography.

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The letter, signed by head of schools Fred Assaf, talked about some of the steps officials there were going through after the arrest and subsequent removal from the school's faculty of William Villemez, a drama teacher for the middle and upper schools at Pace.

In the letter, Assaf said officials at the Buckhead private school did not know how long federal investigators had been conducting the investigation that netted Villemez. Assaf said he had been told evidence suggested that the activity went on over a number of years.

Investigators assured Assaf that they do not believe Villemez had involved any current or former Pace students in the situation.

Dear Parents,

The past 24 hours have been a somber time at Pace Academy. I want to provide an update regarding the actions we are taking as a school to ensure that our children are cared for and supported during this time.

This morning, I spoke to our Middle and Upper School students. I was open and honest with them and shared the information available to us now. I answered questions, encouraged them to talk with our faculty and counselors, and asked that they respect and care for each other as we heal.

We adjusted our Middle School class schedule to allow for small-group discussions facilitated by our Middle School faculty, and we asked that our Middle and Upper School teachers be flexible throughout the day to accommodate students who may need additional support. Our guidance counselors have been available to students who wish to talk, and we are in frequent contact with Dr. Mark Crawford, our consulting psychologist, who will be on campus tomorrow.

We know that as parents you may have questions and concerns or simply want guidance as to how to address these issues with your children. Our counselors, Dr. Tara Terry and Sara Eden, are available to speak with you about these matters and welcome your questions.

Many of you have asked about the "multi-year investigation" referenced in my previous message, and I would like to clarify our use of that term. While we do not know exactly how long federal investigators have been looking into this case, evidence suggests that criminal activity took place over a number of years. Investigators have assured me that they brought this matter to my attention at the earliest possible time. As I have said, investigators do not believe Mr. Villemez involved any current or former Pace students or faculty in this situation.

In the midst of this sadness, I have been encouraged by your messages of support and the resolve of our students and faculty. Thank you for your partnership and your faith in our community. I know that we will emerge from this difficult time stronger than before.


Villemez is scheduled for a detention hearing in federal magistrate court Thursday afternoon.

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