A scary story crossed the wires late on Friday: a teacher’s aide at PS 87, one of the most highly regarded schools in the neighborhood, has been arrested for sexually abusing a student, the New York Times reported first. The aide, Gregory Atkins, 56, has been at the school since 2008. Atkins’ official title is “paraprofessional,” which is basically a teacher’s assistant.

The charges include attempted criminal sex act, sexual abuse, and endangering the welfare of a child, according to the NYPD.

PS 87, which serves pre-Kindergartners to 5th graders and is also known as the William T. Sherman School, is on 78th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Columbus Avenue.

The school administration learned about the incident last Friday and reassigned Atkins to an office away from students, the school said in a letter to parents. Atkins was not on the list of teachers at PS 87 as of this Friday.

Atkins had been investigated in 2006, when he was at MS 322, for inappropriate relationships with students. The letter, linked here, includes details of the allegations, which apparently didn’t result in any arrest or in Atkins being told to stay away from children. The letter says that Atkins told investigators the mother of the boy had taken out an order of protection against Atkins, and that Atkins had been suspended at one point without pay.

Here are a couple of passages (the letter omits various details, including names, so at some points the sentences appear to cut off):

“In an interview with investigators, Student A’s mother disclosed that she was very concerned about her son’s relationship with Atkins and did not want the boy “to become a victim.” Student A’s mother revealed that she contacted Student A’s coach and the and complained about Atkins. Student A’s mother further stated that it was her understanding that Atkins had applied for an assistant coach position but as a result of the concerns she expressed, put a hold on his application…”

“Student A’s mother further stated that Atkins offered to baby-sit for Student A “whenever necessary” and stated that he had an extra bedroom, a Play Station, and a computer for Student A to use. Student A’s mother reported that she became very concerned and asked Atkins to leave her home.Student A’s mother told investigators that Atkins was constantly “lurking” around at Student A’s games and never said hello to her or Student A’s father…”

“Atkins revealed to investigators that several years prior he was a
coach and he thought it “would be fun to get back into the sport.” Atkins admitted to investigators that he purchased sports items for Student A such as an athletic supporter and wrist bands.”

On Monday morning, the Manhattan DA’s office will hold a meeting with parents to answer questions, and the NYPD may be contacting parents to find out if there were more incidents.

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