Diocese of St. Augustine Responds to Child Sexual Abuse by Catholic School Employees

Catholic Vote [Madison, WI]

March 15, 2024

The Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida, has responded to the arrest of two Catholic school employees who were involved in the reported sexual abuse of several students.

The diocesan statement refers to reports of sexual misconduct of Christopher Chell, a physical education teacher working at St. Patrick Interparish School in Gainesville. He was arrested on March 7. 

Assistant Principal Ryan Clemens was arrested shortly afterwards and was charged with child neglect and tampering with evidence regarding the reported sexual misconduct.

“The diocese, along with its school officials, continues to cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation,” the diocese said in the statement. “We continue to keep the families who have been impacted by this case and the St. Patrick faith community informed and in our prayers.”

According to local news outlet WCJB, Clemens appeared in court Thursday and his bond is set at $60,000.

WCJB added that “Chell is being held on a $1 million bond on ten counts of lewd and lascivious battery of a child between the ages of 12 and 16.”

Chell reportedly asked a female 7th-grade student to be his “secret boyfriend,” touched three 6th-grade girls while hugging them, and “victimized another girl during school hours.” 

The 7th-grade student made the report of inappropriate comments to Clemens on February 20, when he reportedly dismissed her concerns and said that he didn’t believe her. Chell denied making the comments, but Clemens discovered the next day that he was lying.

Despite knowing the truth, Clemens made a report on February 23 to the Department of Children and Families, stating that Chell was innocent of any wrongdoing or improper misconduct.

More reports occurred on February 26 and 27, but no action was taken until February 28, when Chell was fired.

According to WCJB, Chell may have abused more students. The Gainesville police department’s investigation is still ongoing.