An elementary school aide on the Upper West Side was arrested yesterday on child molestation charges, and it turns out that he was suspended six years ago for having an inappropriate relationship with a male student while working at another Manhattan school. NY1’s Ruschell Boone filed the following report.
A school aide on the Upper West Side was arrested Friday on child molestation charges.
Gregory Atkins, 56, worked as a para-professional at PS 87, the William Sherman School. He faces charges of attempted criminal sex act, sexual abuse, and endangering the welfare of a child.
“I definitely have to talk to other parents and maybe even some of the faculty and see how close this guy was to the kids. It's scary,” said one PS 87 parent.
Officials say Atkins allegedly molested one boy at the school, and it's unclear if it happened more than once.
“I would never actually suspect that he would do that,” said one student.
The school said it reassigned Atkins away from students after hearing about the allegations last Friday and immediately notified the New York City Police Department and the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation.
No one answered the door at Atkins’ apartment in Sugar Hill Friday, but neighbors were also stunned by the news.
“If it's true, I'm glad they got him,” said one neighbor.
Atkins was suspended six years ago for having an inappropriate non-sexual relationship with a male student.
In 2006, Atkins was working at MS 322 as a health para-professional. He gave the student gifts including a jock strap and a cup, continuously showed up at his sporting events, had him over for meals and asked him to stay at his house.
The child's mother got an order of protection against Atkins.
Officials at the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation recommended disciplinary action in response, and a spokesperson for the Department of Education said the school's principal spoke with him.
However, neither the DOE nor the principal at MS 322 put a letter in Atkins' file about the incident, meaning there was no record when he switched schools.
“It’s just frightening to hear things like this. You don't want it to happen in your child's school. You don't want it to happen to any child's school,” said one parent.
"I thought he was a little creepy sometimes. I sorta knew there was something a little wrong with him, but he was really nice," said one student.
Atkins began working for PS 87 in 2008, but he joined the DOE in 2001 and has worked in several city schools.
A representative from the United Federation of Teachers said school aides are not protected by tenure and that the DOE could easily have fired Atkins back in 2006.
The school will hold a special meeting with parents on Monday. A representative from the Manhattan district attorney's office will be on hand to answer any questions.