CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Shock waves rippled through a Long Island high school after word spread that the head coach of its winning Science Olympiad team had been arrested for allegedly fondling a 15-year-old student.
As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, Stephen Malusa, 47, is a revered teacher at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, Suffolk County.
Malusa was arraigned Tuesday in Suffolk County First District Court in Central Islip after an investigation allegedly revealed he had abused the student in May of last year.
“Most people think he didn’t do it,” one student said.
“I actually found him as a nice man and a good teacher,” a student told McLogan.
“I definitely think there’s a possibility it’s true. And it’s also worrisome that school officials can’t hire people that are adequate for the job,” another student said.
Just two weeks ago CBS 2 featured Malusa and fifteen Ward Melville students who were heartsick after a state administrative error as well as a snow-delayed application resulted in their disqualification from the state Science Olympiad competition.
The students worked all year to compete and could have been eligible to earn college scholarships if they placed in the state’s Science Olympiad.
“Some mistakes were made on our end, but also on the state’s end too. And we don’t want the children to be punished for this mistake,” Malusa had previously told McLogan.
The Ward Melville team is a perennial power in science fairs. They won last year’s state title and have advanced to the national tournament each of the past five years.
Now, the tenured teacher has much more to worry about.
A student recently came forward, alleging Malusa fondled her in a parking lot off campus along Route 25A on May 1, 2013, when she was then 15 years old, McLogan reported.
The Setauket-Stony Brook community was both stunned and divided by the news.
“Absolutely disgraceful. I can’t even believe that, and it is shocking the community here, a very family oriented community. It really hurts,” said East Setauket parent Will Giambone.
“Waiting to judge, absolutely. Kids can make things up, teenagers as we all remember, you never know what goes through their minds,” said Stony Brook resident Jean McCarroll.
The superintendent of Three Village Central School District reacted swiftly to the allegations.
“The district is disturbed by these allegations. The teacher was permanently cleared through the state’s fingerprint background check,” the superintendent said in a statement.
Malusa pleaded not guilty to third-degree sexual abuse, and endangering the welfare of a child. Both of which are misdemeanors.
School officials say once Malusa posts $45,000 bond and is released from jail, he will be reassigned to home with pay pending the outcome of the criminal investigation, McLogan reported.
The district also called in guidance counselors and social workers to support students and staff shaken by the allegations.
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