RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It was an alleged invasion of privacy involving pre-teens on Long Island.
A middle school gym teacher is facing felony charges for allegedly videotaping inside a locker room.
Parents of Westhampton Beach Middle School students told CBS 2′s Carolyn Gusoff that it was a sad day in their suburban town.
Police said Thomas Sheppard, a beloved gym teacher and coach, was arrested after he videotaped children in the middle school girls locker room.
“Evidence obtained reveals Sheppard placed a video recording device in a female gym locker room in an apparent effort to record students in that environment,” said New York State Police Maj. Patrick Regan.
State police were called in to aid the tiny village’s local force.
No one answered the door at the Sheppard home in Mastic, but he will soon have to answer to the serious charges after the cell phone recording was found last month.
Sheppard’s parents and fiancée looked on as he was arraigned on unlawful surveillance charges Wednesday.
“I have no comment,” Sheppard said.
Meanwhile, Westhampton is reeling after the alleged spying incident was first discovered by school officials who said they found Sheppard’s cell phone recording video in the locker room.
“It’s disgusting. I wouldn’t want that to happen to my daughter ever,” one parent said.
The 27-year-old teacher has been in the district for four years and had earned tenure and the respect of students.
“The people who know about it are upset. The people who don’t understand it are upset about it,” said one girl.
The Westhampton School District issued a statement saying the teacher has been “suspended…pending the outcome of the legal process. Since this is…an active investigation, the district is…constrained from sharing any additional details.”
Police wouldn’t say how school officials found his cell phone or how many children they believe he recorded.
But police did say cyber-bullying may have also played a role in this case. They believe that some supporters of Sheppard may have gone online to intimidate alleged victims.
Bail was set at $25,000. The judge also issued several stay away orders, barring the teacher from going anywhere near witnesses and victims.
Police said the charges are based on one incident, but more charges could follow.
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