Arrested JFK teacher was a regular in R’dale
Thomas Gibbons, 59, a John F. Kennedy special education teacher who was arrested for sexual misconduct with an 11-year-old relative, liked to kick back with a Corona in Riverdale.
An Beal Bocht Café owner Tony Caffrey said he was a regular on Friday evenings while school was in session and that after seeing his mug shot in the tabloids, he and others were shocked to hear of Mr. Gibbons’ alleged crime.
“Every Friday… He’s been coming since this place opened,” Mr. Caffrey said, adding that Mr. Gibbons’ presence was so expected that when he didn’t show up on June 1, he asked about the regular’s whereabouts. Mr. Caffrey said Mr. Gibbons’ friends said he was with his wife who was soon due to give birth.
Meanwhile, Mr. Gibbons had been arrested at his home in Eastchester just days before, on May 30, and charged with engaging a now-11-year-old female relative in sexual behavior during visits with his family in Patterson, N.J. between January 2010 and January 2011.
The Department of Education gave Mr. Gibbons a non-teaching assignment once officials learned of his arrest for endangering the welfare of a child, which could put him in New Jersey State Prison for up to five years.
Mr. Caffrey, however, said he saw no signs that Mr. Gibbons could be bad news.
“Never got any creepiness off him. I like the guy,” he said.
But Marge Feinberg, Department of Education deputy press secretary, said the city tried to fire Mr. Gibbons when he was accused of sleeping with a student while working at William Taft High School nearly two decades ago.
Because of that, Mr. Gibbons has become a poster child for the DOE’s push to change the rules that require teachers accused of sexual misconduct to go through an arbitration process. Instead, the DOE wants to be able to fire them outright.
The DOE had little information on Mr. Gibbons’ alleged affair with a student because the case was dismissed. However, a 15-year-old student at Taft accused Mr. Gibbons of snatching her by the hair, slamming her into a locker and thrusting a gun against her chest in 1995, according to published news reports.
The reports said Mr. Gibbons discussed having sex with the student and urged her not to press charges in recorded phone conversations. Eleven years later, the accusations reached arbitrator Margaret Leibowitz, who determined the evidence against Mr. Gibbons was insufficient, according to the reports.
“We’re all shocked. We just hope it’s not true,” Mr. Caffrey said.