Child Protection Failures: This Week, New York

Last week I wrote about the Los Angeles Unified School District’s failure to notify parents of reports of sexual abuse by teachers. Their failure to inform parents went to such an extreme that parents didn’t know that a teacher in their students’ school was suspected of abuse until the media reported on the arrests. PS 87- new york_2.jpgThe story is shocking and unacceptable, but these three incidents demonstrate failure on the part of one school district, so at least we can find solace in the fact that this is isolated, atypical behavior, right?

Unfortunately, those familiar with our work to expose the secrets of Catholic Church officials and other religious institutions who cover up for abuser priests all the while transferring them from parish to parish without warning, know that this behavior is sadly not isolated.

This weekend we learned of another educator, this time in New York at theGregory Atkins 2.jpg prestigious P.S. 87, in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, who was arrested for sexual abuse of a student. It’s still unclear what school officials knew about Gregory Atkins, a teacher’s aide at P.S. 87, before his arrest last week. But in 2006, when he was working at another school, Mr. Atkins was inappropriately involved with a middle school student. Most recently, the school was notified on February 2nd of incidents that occurred between Mr. Atkins and a male student. But the school apparently didn’t notify parents or remove Mr. Atkins at the time. Instead he was transferred to a different role in the building, but parents were not told until last Friday, when a letter went home with students.

Failing to inform parents of teachers who have been accused or are at risk of sexually abusing students appears to be an emerging trend in schools and school districts nationwide. We hope that New York and LA are in fact isolated incidents and other schools can learn from them and adopt policies that put children’s safety first.