Anna Phillips is a staff reporter at GothamSchools.
Elementary School Aide Is Accused of Sex Abuse
Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - 01:07 PM
4:55 p.m. | Updated With new information and reporting by Noah Rosenberg.
A teacher's aide at Public School 243 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday night and accused of sexually abusing and videotaping children at the school, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the case.
The aide, Taleek Brooks, had been out on bail after being arrested on Jan. 13 on charges of possession and distribution of child pornography, the official said. After that arrest, law enforcement officials said they discovered videos on Mr. Brooks's home computer that showed him molesting children in a classroom that appears to be in the P.S. 243 building.
Mr. Brooks has worked at P.S. 243 since 1995, but for two years before that he held jobs as a teacher's aide at two other Brooklyn elementary schools and one middle school. He was suspended without pay from P.S. 243 after his arrest in January.
A letter was sent to parents of the 370 students at the Pre-K to 5 school, which received a C on its most recent progress report.
Mr. Brooks's lawyer had no immediate comment. But the schools chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon, after visiting the school and meeting with the principal, staff members, the P.T.A. president and parent coordinator, as well as teachers, his office said:
As chancellor, and as a father, I am horrified and disgusted at the charges we learned of today from the F.B.I. Upon learning of this arrest, I immediately called the principal and went to the school to offer my support. Our paramount concern is for the safety of our students, and we are cooperating fully with the federal authorities as they continue their investigation.
Prosecutors did not immediately say how many children had been involved.
A spokesman for Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney for the Eastern District, said Mr. Brooks was expected to appear in federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday.
News of the aide's arrest was first reported by NBC New York.
Mr. Walcott arrived at P.S. 243 shortly before 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday. He said that his office had learned of the charges against Mr. Brooks a few hours earlier and that he was waiting for additional information.
But, Mr. Walcott said, "We'll be communicating with parents and in constant contact with the school community."
He said he could not respond directly to parents' concerns until he knew all the facts, but added, "Just me being here is an indication that this is something that we take seriously."
"My personal reaction is one of disgust on the part of this individual," Mr. Walcott said. "This case is a horrendous case, and it's something that should not be tolerated."
Mr. Walcott said that a "screening system was in place" and that there had been no indications of these kinds of problems with the aide.
Shortly before dismissal on Tuesday afternoon, several parents and grandparents of students said they, too, had been shocked to hear the news.
"I know Mr. Brooks," Michael Haskins, 31, said. "We never had any problems out of him."
"He was good with the kids, right?" he added, looking at a friend who was standing beside him in front of the school.
Mr. Haskins said that he had two children, a 10- and an 11-year-old, at P.S. 243, and that they had frequently gone on trips out of the classroom with Mr. Brooks.
"Swimming, basketball tournaments," Mr. Haskins said, expressing disbelief that they had spent so much time with him -- "every Saturday all summer and sometimes during school" -- but said he had never heard any complaints about the aide from them.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this post characterized Mr. Walcott's remarks incorrectly. The post has been changed and now includes an accurate characterization.
A letter from P.S. 243 principal Karen Hambright-Glove to parents:
Mosi Secret and Noah Rosenberg contributed reporting.