Before the rape allegation surfaced in January, Albert C. Virachismith was able to hold onto his job despite a suspension, critical employment review and a written reprimand, newly released records show.
He missed work 21 times, routinely showed up late or reeking of alcohol, disrupted class with loud outbursts, even one time “playfully” put a special-needs student with impulse-control issues into a headlock, personnel records show.
Still, Seattle Public Schools kept Albert C. Virachismith — a man who would later be accused of child rape — working as an instructional assistant at John Muir Elementary School during the 2016-17 school year, pairing him with a special-education student who needed extra help.
In fact, only after Virachismith showed up smelling of booze yet again at the end of that school year did the district seek to fire him — but even that didn’t stick.
After Virachismith and his union, the Seattle Education Association, filed a grievance challenging his termination, the district agreed to a compromise allowing him to keep working with kids as a substitute during the 2017-18 school year.
Most Read Local Stories
- Weather drama on the way: Lots of rain in Seattle, snow in the Cascades, wind at the coast
- Seattle zoning's urban-suburban divide: Here's how the city's two halves are changing | FYI Guy
- Seattle City Council approves plan for UW to build 6 million square feet, add high-rise district
- After the viaduct: Seattle's vision for waterfront up in the air because some property owners don't want to pay
- SeaTac Councilmember Amina Ahmed dies in car crash 7 weeks after joining council
Within two months, Virachismith had violated that “Last Chance Settlement Agreement” by failing two urine tests and repeatedly missing required alcohol-treatment sessions, records show. Still, the district held off on firing him.
Last school year, Virachismith subbed at seven schools — five of them after his violations came to light — until Jan. 29, when a 9-year-old told his parents about the five to six times Virachismith allegedly sexually assaulted him inside a bathroom at John Muir during the previous school year.
The district ultimately fired Virachismith on Feb. 7 — five days after his arrest for investigation of child rape and molestation. But his termination wasn’t due to the alleged sex crimes, but for breaking his last-chance pact — based on information district officials had known about for nearly two months.
Virachismith, 41, of Seattle, has pleaded not guilty to both felony counts. Since Feb. 2, he has been held in the King County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail, according to the jail roster. A trial has been set for later this month.
Neither the prosecutor handling the case nor Virachismith’s public defender returned messages Friday seeking comment. A police spokesman said Friday an investigation remains “active and ongoing.”
The details of Virachismith’s problem-plagued tenure as a school employee are contained in various Seattle Public Schools personnel records, some of which were released to The Seattle Times last week in response to a Public Records Act request.
In April, then-Seattle Public Schools spokeswoman Kim Schmanke said in an email both the Muir school and the district “followed progressive disciplinary steps to address the absences, tardiness and indications of an alcohol problem.”
“Until Jan. 29, 2018, there were no indications or reports of inappropriate interactions of a sexual nature at SPS involving Virachismith,” Schmanke’s email added.
Once the rape allegations emerged, the district “immediately restricted him from taking any assignments and banned him from all schools grounds upon receiving the allegation. We also moved quickly to terminate his employment,” Schmanke said.
In a brief statement Friday, the school district said it “will continue to support the Seattle Police Department and the Prosecutor’s Office on all criminal proceedings and investigations related to Mr. Virachismith.”
Virachismith, who earned $30,235 in pay and benefits for the 2016-17 school year, was hired in 2014 as a special-education instructional assistant, records show.
For his first two school years, he worked at Martin Luther King Jr. elementary, before transferring to John Muir for the 2016-17 school year.
Virachismith received “unsatisfactory” ratings — the lowest possible grade — on every section of his employee-performance evaluation for the 2016-17 school year at Muir. The evaluation, completed in April 2017, is riddled by negative remarks and shows multiple problems were documented about Virachismith throughout the school year.
“Albert fails to accomplish the essential functions of the job,” one comment says.
“Albert’s judgment is questionable and his decision quality is poor,” says another.
Another remark bluntly described Virachismith as “not reliable,” requiring “significant supervision to complete assigned work.”
“He does not follow District policies by coming to work with an overwhelming odor of alcohol,” it added.
At least twice in the first half of the school year — in August and December of 2016 — staff members “documented that Albert reported to work with the odor of alcohol so pervasive that he was asked to go home,” according to the review.
Virachismith missed 13 of the first 65 scheduled days of school in 2016, and repeatedly arrived late — sometimes, by several hours — on multiple days, the document says.
After one unplanned absence from work, Virachismith emailed the principal, claiming he failed to show because he’d been arrested. The next day, he met with an assistant principal and “admitted that he had lied and made up the story,” the evaluation states.
His performance inside the classroom also was a concern. During one class, Virachismith sat in the back coloring instead of helping his student finish an assignment. Another time, he was caught sleeping in the school’s library, records show. Staff and students described Virachismith as loud and disruptive, with some observing that he was “too rough” and “often ‘yells and barks’ at the student he is assigned to.”
“Cannot support” return
By June 20, 2017 — the date Virachismith again showed up smelling of alcohol — he’d already “received a three-day suspension, Written Reprimand, Documented Oral Warning, and two letters of warning documenting continued absences, tardiness and concerns that you were coming to work under the influence of alcohol,” according to a district letter to him.
Virachismith had received the suspension for “continued tardiness and absences” less than two weeks earlier, and was warned he’d be required to undergo urine testing and face firing if he showed up smelling of alcohol again. After he did, test results gauged Virachismith’s blood alcohol content at 0.04.
When a district labor-relations manager asked Muir school officials their thoughts on letting Virachismith keep working if he got treatment, Principal Brenda Cuthbertson responded: “I cannot support his return to any school setting.”
The district fired Virachismith on Aug. 1, 2017, records show.
But he came back to work about seven weeks later — after he and his union negotiated a compromise. Under a “last chance agreement” signed Sept. 21, the district hired Virachismith as a substitute eligible to work at any school except Muir elementary. Virachismith, in turn, agreed to complete a six-month treatment program and subject himself to random testing.
He started substituting at Mercer Middle School, working 29 days from Oct. 5 to Nov. 17. He subbed for several more days at Aki Kurose Middle School in December.
By then, Virachismith already had violated the agreement, records show. On Nov. 13, his treatment counselor reported to district officials that he twice had tested positive for alcohol. He also missed 12 scheduled treatment sessions in November and December, records show.
On Jan. 3, the district drafted a letter to inform Virachismith he was being fired immediately. But apparently that letter, which was marked with the word “draft,” was never sent.
Records show he continued working as a substitute from Jan. 3 to Jan. 26 at five schools, including Bailey Gatzert, Van Asselt, Denny International, Orca K-8 and Washington.