Meeting held at NYC school where aide arrested

56-year-old Gregory Atkins is charged with attempted criminal sex act and sexual abuse of a student while working as a teacher's aide. (my space)

February 13, 2012 2:38:26 PM PST
Parents at the Manhattan school where a teacher's aide was arrested on charges of child sex abuse attended an emergency meeting Monday morning.

The meeting was called at PS 87 on the Upper West Side after 56-year-old Gregory Atkins was arrested on Friday on charges he molested an 8-year-old boy.

"My child had no contact with this man, but I'm here for every single child that this man had contact with and could've had contact with," one mother said.

About 500 parents lined up for the meeting with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and officials from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

"I was saddened by the news," parent William Davila said. "Very frightened that, it really hit me in my heart, inside, because I would never expect something like that to happen in a school like this."

Inside the 90-minute meeting, many parents did not get the answers they wanted. They learned that in 2006, a Department of Education investigation determined that Atkins had inappropriate contact with a 14-year-old boy at MS 322 in Harlem. The mother in that instance was so upset that Atkins had bought her child gifts, walked him home from school and repeatedly asked him to spend the night that she got an order of protection against him.

But there was no evidence of sexual contact, so no letter was ever placed in Atkins' file.

"This is substantiated," parent Javier Solano said. "This guy had inappropriate with a child. So what should they do? Well, you know what, because he has seniority, let him pick whatever school he wants to transfer to, and let's put him into an elementary school. I just don't understand that."

Dennis Walcott responded to the critics after the meeting.

"I can understand their frustration," he said. "And definitely a lot of them didn't get answers to the questions they posed. But the accountability rests with me. And I was very clear that I was the chancellor, I am in charge, and I will get back to them."

Atkins had been at the school since 2008. Officials say he came into the system in 2001 as a substitute teacher.

Walcott reminded parents that he wasn't in charge when the 2006 incident happened, but says he is condcuting a full review of policy.

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