The abuse happened on Kirkwood school property, in Christopher Stephens’s office, even in the drama department prop room, according to court documents.
The documents support what former students have been telling the I-Team for months. Stephens’s accusers said he groomed them and abused them in plain sight. They believe that school leaders knew, and didn’t do enough.
Former Kirkwood High School student Katie Pappageorge told the I-Team’s PJ Randhawa that Stephens abused her in the late ‘90s, starting when she was 12 years old. Despite other students also coming forward, Stephens is currently facing charges in Pappageorge’s case.
The I-Team previously uncovered documents showing Stephens was allowed to resign in 1998 after two students reported abuse allegations to the Kirkwood High School’s then-principal. Stephens’s resignation and the surrender of his teaching certificate came with the stipulation that the district would not involve police or hold inquiries about the abuse allegations.
Stephens went on to teach Italian, communication, and theater at St. Louis Community College, where he took students on annual study abroad trips to Europe.
Last year, Stephens was honored by the St. Louis City Board of Aldermen with a resolution praising his decades of teaching.
His arraignment is scheduled to take place Friday.
Tracing the Path of a Teacher Accused of Abuse
Aug. 20, 1991
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education granted Stephens his teacher certification.
According to documents from DESE and an unverified curriculum vitae (a document similar to a resume), Stephens taught drama and speech classes at Kirkwood High School for seven years.
The Speech and Theatre Association of Missouri gave Stephens its Outstanding Teacher Award.
September 1997-December 1998
The charging documents state that this is the time frame of the five incidents of statutory rape and statutory sodomy for which he is charged.
Jan. 8, 1998
According to the stipulated agreement between DESE and Stephens, which was provided by DESE in response to a Sunshine Law Request, this is the date that Stephens was notified of allegations against him.
Jan. 20, 1998
According to a letter provided by DESE in response to a Sunshine Law Request, “Kirkwood Board of Education voted unanimously to recommend to the Missouri State Board of Education that you revoke the teaching license [sic] of Chris Stephens, a teacher in the Kirkwood School District. On January 9, 1998, Mr. Stephens resigned his teaching position with the district and voluntarily surrendered his teaching certificate as a result of allegations made against him.”
Feb. 4, 1998
Stephens surrendered his teacher certificate to DESE a couple of weeks after the Kirkwood Board of Education wrote to the agency, and DESE accepted the surrendered credential and revoked his certification.
A letter from DESE to Stephens's lawyer on this date says: “It is provided in that stipulated agreement that Mr. Stephens will be resigning from the district and surrendering his certificate to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in order to avoid charges relating to allegations currently before the Kirkwood Board of Education. You indicated that your client wishes to avoid the filing of those charges or any hearing associated with these allegations.” DESE’s position was that, if Stephens reapplied for certification in the future, “notification would be given to the Kirkwood School District to allow the opportunity to address any concerns regarding recertification.”
The same year, according to an unverified Curriculum Vitae no longer available online, Stephens may have graduated from Lindenwood University with an MFA in theater.
The unverified CV suggests that Stephens was adjunct faculty at Washington University, Webster University, and St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley.
The unverified CV lists Stephens’s teaching positions at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley progressing from assistant professor to associate professor in 2003, and to full professor in 2007.
Stephens received the Global Educator Award from the Missouri Community College Association.
Per reporting on Patch.com, Stephens led groups annually for the St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley’s Italian Studies Learning Community. The unverified CV states Stephens became involved in this program starting in 2005.
A St. Louis Italian culture organization gave Stephens its Spirit of Columbus Award in this year.
Katie Pappageorge filed a police report with Kirkwood Police Department in early 2019.
STLCC tells 5 On Your Side that Stephens retired from teaching for the community college in May 2019.
May 31, 2019
Stephens was honored with a resolution from the Board of Aldermen introduced by alderman Joseph Vaccaro. At the time, the resolution recognized him as the president of the Italian Club of St. Louis, vice president of the Federation of Italian American Organizations, and vice president of Ciao St. Louis. It coincided with the Italia-America Bocce Club’s Italian Republic Day banquet, where he was given the Italian Republic Award.
Kirkwood High School alumni began posting their experiences to a Facebook group, leading the district to begin an investigation.
Sept. 16, 2020
A criminal indictment was filed in Katie Pappageorge's case.
Sept. 28, 2020
St. Louis County police activity reports show that Stephens was arrested days ago by St. Louis city police.
Current filings with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office list Stephens as the president of The Italian Club of St. Louis and the vice president of the Federation of Italian American Organizations of St. Louis.