Horror At PS 15: Officials Question Sex Assault Timeline
By SASHA AUSTRIEWith PS 15 as the backdrop, Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), addressed allegations of sexual assault at the school by a teacher.
|Tribune Photo by Sasha Austrie
Sen. Malcolm Smith denounces the perceived delay in removing a teacher from a Springfield Gardens school who has been accused of sexually assaulting students.
Simon Watts, a fourth grade teacher at PS 15 in Springfield Gardens, was arraigned and charged with second-degree sexual conduct against a child, first-degree sexual abuse, and endangering the welfare of a child last Wednesday. Watts, who faces up to seven years in prison if convicted, was ordered held on $200,000 bail and to return to court on May 3.
Smith said of the reportedly five children who were assaulted, Watts followed two from the third to fourth grade.
Watts is the second teacher arrested amid allegations of child abuse within the last week. Christine Williams, fifth grade special education teacher at PS 80 in Jamaica, was arraigned and charged with third-degree rape, third-degree criminal sexual act and endangering the welfare of a child. She allegedly had sexual relations with a 15-year-old student.
Williams was released on her recognizance and ordered to return to court on May 10. If convicted, she faces up to four years in prison.
“Something is wrong,” Smith said. “The UFT needs to figure out what is going on with its teachers.”
Smith said though Watts was removed from the school, there was an issue with the timeline and parental notification. He alleged that Watts wasn’t removed from the classroom until two weeks after the allegations.
“There is no reason he should beat the school two weeks after the allegations,” Smith said. “No one, no one is going to accept this.”
Chrissy Pettway, PS 15’s PTA vice president, said a letter was given to Watts’ fourth grade class, which stated he was on leave.
“He didn’t just teach his class,” Pettway said. “[Principal Antonio K’Tori] should have sent out the letter to the whole school.”
Pettway went on to say that K’Tori questioned parents and told them not to speak of the allegations.
Pettway said the initial child told her parents about the allegations on March 8 and by March 11 K’Tori knew of the accusations. Pettway said students weren’t given letters until April 8.
Another letter was sent home on April 21, she said. The letter said he was reassigned because of the allegations and that he had not been in school since the allegations.
“That is a lie,” Pettway said.
Eric Douglas, a first grader’s parent, said he knew of the incident from media reports. Also, Douglas said he was not notified of a meeting intended to brief parents on the situation. “Press or outsiders know more than us what happened at that meeting,” he said. “Once informed by the NYPD of allegations on March 11, school officials acted immediately to remove Mr. Watts from the school that evening and parents were informed of his reassignment,” wrote David Cantor, DOE press secretary, in response to DOE’s supposed delayed reaction. “Today and going forward, counselors and school psychologists will be available to meet with all PS 15 students and parents. Given what we’ve heard, this individual does not belong in a classroom.”
Earlier this week the number of alleged victims climbed to 16 girls and one boy. Pettway said she could only confirm seven claims of abuse. At the time, she said the other nine were “just rumors.” She added that Watts should have never taught at PS 15, alleging that he had three previous allegations of corporal punishment. Pettway said two of the claims were unfounded and in the other case the investigation was stalled. She also alleged that Watts’ last appointment PS 115 in Brooklyn “it was strongly suggested that he leave the school.”
Smith added that he is calling on the district attorney, chancellor and police commissioner to launch an investigation. He was adamant that parents should be notified immediately on sexual allegations.
Archie Spigner, district leader and former councilman, and Jacqueline Boyce, district leader, dubbed the teacher’s alleged actions “outrageous” and “sad.”
Reach Reporter Sasha Austrie at email@example.com, or (718) 357-7400 Ext. 123