NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Known for its excellence in education, P.S. 87 on the Upper West Side was shaken Friday by the arrest of one of its teacher’s aides for alleged sex abuse.
The school broke the news to parents in a letter.
“It’s appalling and a shock, because you wouldn’t think of it in a school like this,” parent David Callaway told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.
“It’s really, really disturbing. It makes you think what next?” Steve Anthony added.
Gregory Atkins, 56, worked at the middle school since 2008. Last Friday he was transferred to the Department of Education after school officials learned he was being accused of sexually abusing a child.
A police investigation led to his arrest Friday.
“That’s unfortunate any time that happens. It can happen anywhere. All we can do is be vigilant as parents and listen to our kids,” parent Tom McCracken said.
This isn’t the first time Atkins raised suspicion. Documented in a letter to the DOE in 2006, when Atkins was working at M.S. 322 in Manhattan, a mother reported concern about Atkins after he showered her son with gifts, offered to babysit him, and lurked at his sports games.
No charges were filed because the relationship was not found to be sexual.
“People like that are very charming and they are very good with kids, so they’re very good at grooming and having the kids trust them,” parent Dricel Okacaki said.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott responded to the Atkins charges by saying: “We take this allegation very seriously and we pledge to cooperate fully in the ongoing police investigation.”
Atkins’ neighbors were stunned by the accusations.
“It’s shocking because he doesn’t look like that type of person,” neighbor Yannery Salazar said.
P.S. 87 is holding a special meeting for parents on Monday at 8:30 a.m. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office will be there to answer questions and address any concerns.
Police are contacting parents and looking for other children who may be involved or could be witnesses.
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