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Former Patch Elementary School teacher Stefan Eberhard Zappey, shown in a photo from a 2007 school press release, pleaded not guilty in an Atlanta court to charges of sexually assaulting students.

Former Patch Elementary School teacher Stefan Eberhard Zappey, shown in a photo from a 2007 school press release, pleaded not guilty in an Atlanta court to charges of sexually assaulting students. (DODEA)

STUTTGART, Germany — A former Patch Elementary School teacher accused of sexually assaulting students over a four-year span is awaiting trial after pleading not guilty in a Georgia court.

Stefan Eberhard Zappey, who began teaching at the Defense Department school in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2001, was arraigned Oct. 20 in the Northern District Court of Georgia on two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, court records show.

The development comes more than one year after the former German language teacher was arrested in August 2021 while on vacation in the U.S.

The case against Zappey was initiated in March of that year when a former student told a Patch teacher about the abuse she said she experienced between 2007 and 2008.

Investigators with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division interviewed her. She told them that when she was in third grade, Zappey called her to his desk during class and repeatedly fondled her, according to court records. She was 8 at the time.

Army investigators then expanded their probe, interviewing numerous other students and teachers, who said they had witnessed Zappey being inappropriate with students.

Zappey, a former Bavaria district teacher of the year, was removed from his teaching position once Army criminal investigators launched their inquiry, Department of Defense Education Activity officials said last year.

Patch Elementary School on Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany. A former teacher, Stefan Eberhard Zappey, is accused of sexually assaulting student. He has pleaded not guilty in an Atlanta court.

Patch Elementary School on Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany. A former teacher, Stefan Eberhard Zappey, is accused of sexually assaulting student. He has pleaded not guilty in an Atlanta court. (Patch Elementary School/DODEA)

What remains unclear is whether any Patch faculty members ever passed on their concerns about Zappey to school administrators. Such details could be revealed when the case goes to trial. A trial date has not been set yet.

Court records state that two faculty members witnessed “multiple occasions where Zappey hugged students at ‘crotch level.’” And another faculty member said that he had known Zappey for eight years and that Zappey “would train students to become ‘really touchy feely.’”

“I have witnessed on several occasions what I deem as inappropriate touching of students by Mr. Zappey,” one faculty member is quoted in court documents as saying. “Examples of this touching is running his fingers through girls (sic) hair, sitting students on his lap, hugging students based on the placement of their faces as they are hugged, picking up students when they run up to him and letting them wrap their legs around him, and just being over touchy feely with students.”

Another former student who was interviewed told investigators that between 2008 and 2010, Zappey would call her up to his desk, “put her on his lap, put his hand inside her pants, and touch her genitals with his finger on multiple occasions.”

She was 7 when the alleged abuse began. She said that in third grade, she began telling the school nurse she had stomachaches to avoid Zappey’s class, court records state.

Zappey was arrested after investigators tracked him down in Georgia, where his daughter resides, court records stated. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2000, according to court documents.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

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