Anna Phillips is a staff reporter at GothamSchools.
F.B.I. Continues Its Investigation in Sex-Abuse Case
Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - 05:13 PM
Investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation returned to a Brooklyn elementary school Wednesday to continue an investigation of a teacher’s aide who was arrested and charged with of sexually molesting children inside the school, and to search for more victims, law enforcement officials said.
Meanwhile, New York City education officials met with parents at the school, Public School 243 in Crown Heights, and sent home a letter alerting parents to the aide’s arrest and providing a hotline number they could call if they have information.
The aide, Taleek Brooks, 40, who had worked at the school since 1995, was out on bail after being arrested in January and charged with possession of child pornography. He was arrested again Monday after federal agents discovered that videos on a computer taken from his home showed him engaging in sexual acts with students, law enforcement officials said. The videos appeared to have been made inside P.S. 243, the officials said.
Mr. Brooks’s lawyer and relatives have so far declined to comment.
As a school aide in city public schools since 1991, Mr. Brooks had passed the city’s fingerprinting and screening process, city officials said Wednesday. He was suspended without pay by the city’s Education Department after his arrest in mid-January.
Mr. Brooks was released on $100,000 bail on Jan. 27. A subsequent search of his computer files revealed the images and videos that led to the more serious charges. After an appearance in court Tuesday, his bail was revoked and a judge ordered him detained.
Parents at the school Wednesday morning were looking for answers.
“What happened? It’s crazy, it’s shocking, I don’t even know what to think anymore, should I take her out? Should I leave her? I don’t know," said Karisma Boynton, whose daughter attends kindergarten.
The criminal complaint unsealed in court Tuesday mentions two alleged victims. The F.B.I. has established a hotline and is encouraging parents to come forward if they have more information: (212)384-2700.
A memo sent to teachers yesterday by Karen Hambright-Glover, the school’s principal, gave instructions for talking about the investigation with students, and announced that a crisis team from the city teachers’ union would visit. School officials held a morning meeting with parents in the school auditorium, and sent a letter home in students’ backpacks from schools chancellor Dennis M. Walcott.
The F.B.I. “will not be interviewing any children without first reaching out to parents directly,” the chancellor’s letter said. “The FBI has also informed us that if they have reason to suspect one of your children may have been victimized by this individual, they will reach out to you directly.”
School officials had no comment Wednesday. Outside the school were two police department vans marked “School Safety.”
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Wednesday that, given the size of New York City’s school system, it was inevitable that some school employees would behave criminally.
“The school system’s something like 125,000 people, and I don’t think it’s practical to think there isn’t going to be somebody doing despicable things,” the mayor said. “There are some sick people in the world and you just have to learn to deal with them,” he said.
Parents at the school Wednesday afternoon described Mr. Brooks as a familiar and friendly presence. “I know them by face," parent Alison Prescott said of the teachers’ aides. “Mr. Brooks I know by name.”
Ms. Prescott, who has a daughter in the second grade and a son in kindergarten, said she frequently saw Mr. Brooks after school in the gym, playing basketball with students and teaching them how to dance. “I thought he was a gym teacher,” she said.
Vanessa Johnson, who has two daughters at the school, said she knew Mr. Brooks by sight. “It’s a shock that this would be going on under your nose," she said. “He was involved in everything, not just a teacher’s aide.’’
Ms. Johnson said that school administrators have not told the parents enough about the situation. “I’m upset that I now am just hearing about this,” she said. “It was shocking to see news people and all of the police here. It’s supposed to be a safe haven for them. You send your kids to school to be safe. It’s sad.”
She said she had asked her fourth-grade daughter whether she had had any inappropriate encounters with Mr. Brooks, which her daughter denied. But Ms. Johnson said she still felt uneasy.
"I think they should do more to know who’s around our kids," she said. "I don’t think they do enough.”
Andrew Scott, picking up his daughter from kindergarten, said school aides escort children to the gymnasium, watch over them in the schoolyard and do classroom tasks that teachers assign them.
He said Mr. Brooks would teach students hip-hop dance moves both during and after school.
"This is a shock right now," he said. "He was always the one teaching them how to dance."
Beth Kormanik and Brian Zumhagen contributed reporting.