Public Advocate de Blasio sent the following letter to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott demanding answers in response to the arrest of a school aide at P.S. 87 on charges of sexual abuse.
Hon. Dennis Walcott
NYC Department of Education
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007
February 11, 2012
Dear Chancellor Walcott:
I share the deep concern of parents and the broader P.S. 87 community following the recent allegations of sexual abuse by Gregory Atkins, a teacher's aide. A suspected child molester in the classroom is every parent's worst nightmare, but what is most troubling are reports that a prior instance of inappropriate contact between Mr. Atkins and a student never resulted in disciplinary action. As a parent of two public school students, I believe the Department of Education's foremost duty is the protection of children; allowing someone who pursued an inappropriate relationship with a child to remain in the classroom is a clear dereliction of that duty.
I call on the Department of Education to explain:
- What official disciplinary action was taken against Mr. Atkins in 2006 as a result of his inappropriate relationship with a student?
- Is the discipline he received consistent with the Department's policies for handling inappropriate relationships between school staff and students?
- To what extent were Mr. Atkins supervisors at P.S. 87 made aware of his prior conduct?
- Beyond the letter sent to parents, what actions is the Department taking to inform the school community and ensure possible victims of abuse come forward?
- Is the Department availing support and counseling services to students who have been affected by this incident?
This incident has sent shockwaves through the close-knit P.S. 87 community. The Department's apparent lack of action following early reports of misconduct has the potential to seriously undermine the trust of parents. I urge the Department to be forthright about Mr. Atkins' history in the school system, and give parents the information they need to protect their children.
Your prompt response to these inquires will be appreciated.
Bill de Blasio
Public Advocate for the City of New York