John Vigna was a star at Cloverly Elementary School, a charismatic, gregarious teacher beloved by children and parents. “Everyone’s favorite,” his principal said. But there was a problem: He had been privately warned about crossing the line with his students.
The popular educator was admonished in 2008 for inappropriately having a child on his lap. Three months later, there was a similar incident, according to court records. After a third complaint in 2013, he signed a pledge to avoid “any physical contact at all” with students.
He stayed in the classroom — but he did not keep his word.
Vigna, 50, was sentenced this month to 48 years in prison for sexually abusing four students over the course of 15 years at the school in Silver Spring, Md. His case underscored a concern that has come up before in Montgomery County schools: Why leave a teacher with a history of suspicious conduct alone with children?
Court testimony and records point to repeated warning signs about Vigna’s behavior over a period of years, raising questions about how well he was supervised, how many incidents are too many and how effective Montgomery is at keeping students safe despite recent efforts to improve child-abuse policy and procedures.