Pass / Fail

So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Former Hamilton student defends teacher, saying everyone wanted to be in Miller's class

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Dora Orozco, 20, is a preschool teacher who attended Hamilton High's music magnet program and graduated in 2009. She played cello in the orchestra in her junior and senior years for Vance Miller, who is accused of sexually abusing multiple students from the mid-1990s through 2010.

Orozco believes Miller is innocent. She found out about the allegations via text message Friday and was "completely in shock."

"I never even thought anything like this would be possible, especially coming from him," Orozco said. "He was already really friendly with students. Friendly in a familiar way. If we did well on a piece or were really excited about something we'd cheer, maybe a hug here and there, but it was never him trying to do anything inappropriate."

Miller made students in his class feel like he was "that uncle that would give you that support," Orozco said.

"At first, for a public school you'd be uncomfortable getting hugs, being familiar with a teacher in that way," Orozco said. "But it was comforting in a way, it was like family. That's how it was to be part of his class. But after, it didn't seem weird at all."

Unlike most public school teachers, Miller made the extra effort to connect to his students, Orozco said. And because of that, as well as his ability to use his reputation to gain students more musical opportunities, he was very popular —everyone wanted to be in his class, Orozco said.

"Going to a public school, the teacher won't even sometimes look at you, they don't even want to make a connection with you," Orozco said.

She said she never saw the student do anything sexual to a student. Sometimes Miller would kiss certain students on the cheek, but "that was just who he was; it wasn't an everday thing."

Orozco said some students, like high schoolers do, would make jokes about Miller being friendlier with male students.

"I just figured he was more respectful to the ladies," Orozco said. "A pat on the back, a rub on the arm, but he would do that more toward the guys. I thought it was more, 'hey, what's up' to the guys."

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).

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