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Teacher Accused Of Having Sex With Students

An Orange middle school teacher accused of having sexual contact with two 13-year-old boys who were former students was arraigned Thursday.

Sarah Suzanne Bench-Salorio, 28, of Orange, was charged with 20 counts of lewd acts on a child under 14 years old. The suspect, who taught for two years at Santiago Charter Middle School, was arrested Tuesday, a day after one of the boys told his parents about the alleged contact with his former teacher, Sgt. Dave Hill said.

Bench-Salorio, who taught reading and English, was booked Wednesday at the Orange County Jail, with bond set at $1 million, a jail clerk said.

"Our investigation indicates that the teacher initiated the sexual contact, and that this contact took place over a period of several months," Hill said. "We're looking at events that spanned several months throughout 2004, and part of that investigation is to determine if it happened sooner than that. We believe the contact took place at various locations and we're investigating whether it was at the parties' homes or the school."

After the one boy came forward, a follow-up investigation "determined there was a second victim," Hill said, but he did not know if both boys knew about each other.

"We are confident in the solidity of our charges," he said.

The district attorney said Bench-Solorio seduced the students over dinner, and through e-mails and phone calls, during a series of months before the alleged sexual contact.

An attorney for Bench-Solorio said she is "embarrassed."

She did not enter a plea Thursday. Another court appearance is scheduled for next week.

Orange Unified School District Superintendent Robert French said Bench-Salorio has been placed on administrative leave, and the district is cooperating in the investigation.

"This is a personnel matter, and on that basis the district can give no additional information. However, the primary concern of the district is always the safety and welfare of its students," French said.

Under provisions of the California Penal Code, police notified the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing of Bench-Salorio's arrest, Hill said.

Investigators are trying to determine if there are other victims, he said. Anyone with information that may be pertinent to the case is asked to call the Orange Police Department at (714) 744-7444.

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