JHS sex-abuse allegations -Report claims school aide touched students

The Brooklyn Paper
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It is alleged that an aide at a Greenpoint junior high school repeatedly behaved inappropriately — and in several cases made sexual advances — toward at least 10 students over the past year and a half, an investigation has found.

The nine-page report, filed this week by the Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI) Richard J. Condon, recounted months of allegedly inappropriate advances by 28-year-old Johnathan Williams toward children at J.H.S. 126, John Ericsson Junior High School (424 Leonard Street).

Williams allegedly volunteered personal information about sexual relationships and used innocuous games and confined spaces to grope several female students, the investigation charged.

According to the report, he would allegedly play very physical games with the children such as “Marco Polo” and “tag” in rooms with the lights off. On one occasion, a student said that Williams complained the room was not dark enough so he allegedly brought her into a closet and touched her buttocks.

He would also, according to the report, allegedly create games where they would pin down a student and tickle them, which created an opportunity for Williams to again put his hands on the kids, the investigation charged.

The report further alleges that four school administrators, including the principal, were made aware of at least five sexual allegations but the complaints were grossly mishandled. In fact, the original statements made by the children about the abuse could not be recovered, the report alleges.

The investigation began in December 2007 when J.H.S. 126 guidance counselor Sergio Zamora contacted SCI to report three instances of female students complaining about inappropriate remarks and touching allegedly by Williams.

Zamora said that a 12-year-old female student said Williams allegedly told the class about losing his virginity and also touched her on the buttocks. A 13-year-old student alleged that she was similarly touched during a game of “tag” with Williams and a third student said she allegedly received an email from him telling her she looked good.

According to the report, “Zamora also contacted the 94th Police Precinct which did not conduct an investigat­ion.” (Calls to the 94th Precinct were not returned by press time).

The students’ accounts of alleged abuse date back as far as September 2007, a full three months before SCI was notified.

The administrators at J.H.S. 126 that were singled out for allegedly mishandling the repeated incidents are Principal Sheldon Toback, Assistant Principal Rose Chen, Dean Carmen Virtuoso and gym teacher Mel Kamenshine. Williams was an assistant to Kamenshine, who was also the school’s cheerleading coach.

“Female students directly told both Dean Virtuoso and Teacher Kamenshin that Williams was touching them,” the report alleges. “Neither Kamenshine nor Virtuoso notified SCI.”

According to the report, Kamenshine notified Chen, then she and Virtuoso told Principal Toback, but still no action was allegedly taken to alert school investigators.

The SCI report requested that the Department of Education take appropriate action against the administrators and that Williams be terminated.

As of this writing, no arrests have been made and no criminal charges have been filed, but Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and the Brooklyn District Attorney were both sent a copy of the report.

Though Williams was suspended during the investigation, the Department of Education (DOE) took action in light of the report’s findings:

“The Department of Education is terminating Johnathan Williams and has placed his name on our ineligible list, which means he cannot work for the Department of Education ever again.”

“Previous to this report, the principal informed us that he will be retiring at the end of the school year. In addition, we are considering appropriate disciplinary action against the other three school employees.”

Administrators at J.H.S. 126 refused comment on the report and referred questions to the DOE.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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