NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Queens elementary school teacher has been charged with sexually abusing two male students, the district attorney said on Thursday.
Wilbert Cortez, a 49-year-old computer teacher at P.S. 174, is accused of placing his hand over the clothing of a now 9-year-old male student and rubbing his genitals. In addition, Cortez is accused of placing his hand over the clothing of a now 8-year-old student and rubbing his genitals and buttocks, Queens DA Richard Brown said.
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The alleged incidents took place over the course of the 2010-11 school year. He was reassigned away from students on Oct. 27, 2011, as a result of the allegations and an investigation.
“These are serious accusations in which a school teacher – who should serve as a role model to students – is instead accused of using his position to gain access to children for his own gratification,” Brown said.
Cortez was transferred to P.S. 174 in September 2000 following a probationary period stemming from similar accusations between December 1999 and February 2000 at a Brooklyn school.
Parents like Kasia Rogan are shaken up by the news.
“I’m shocked. I’m scared,” she told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez. “I’m scared for my son and I’m worried about other kids if that really happened.”
Department of Education sources also told 1010 WINS that Cortez was disciplined following accusations of touching in 2000 at P.S. 184 in Brownsville. Two students at that school had accused Cortez of slapping them on the butt, according to DOE investigation documents. One student said Cortez rubbed his chest and wrapped his arms around his waist and pulled the student towards him, according to those documents.
Cortez, of Rego Park, has been charged with two counts of second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in the Queens incidents.
Parents of students who attend the William Sydney Mount School were notified of the accusations in a letter from the school’s principal.
“If you have reason to believe that your child may know something about this incident, or if you suspect your child may have been harmed in any way, please contact me or the NYPD right away,” Principal Karin Kelly said in the letter.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott released a statement on Thursday, saying he was “appalled by the allegations.”
“No adult who inappropriately touches a student, in or out of school, belongs anywhere near the children we are responsible for protecting. I will do everything in my power to ensure that individuals like Mr. Cortez can be swiftly removed from our classrooms as soon as allegations surface–and be barred from teaching in our schools if those charges are substantiated,” Walcott said.
If convicted, Cortez faces up to seven years in prison.
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