John F. Kennedy teacher removed and facing trial for sex acts with a child
By Sarina Trangle
A John F. Kennedy High School special education teacher was pulled from classrooms last week after authorities said he engaged in sexual misconduct with a child.
Thomas Gibbons, 59, was arrested at his Eastchester, N.Y. home 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.
The accusations sound all too familiar to the Department of Education. Marge Feinberg, DOE 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.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott has used the case against Mr. Gibbons as leverage for a state law that would allow him to fire teachers without going through an arbitrator.
“We tried to fire him in 1996, in 1997, but the arbitrator threw out the case. We had to put him back in the classroom,” Ms. Feinberg said. “The new legislation, if approved, would have given the chancellor the ability to fire him and disregard the arbitrator’s ruling.”
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.
Mr. Gibbons began teaching special education at JFK a year after the alleged assault at Taft, according to Ms. Feinberg. He spent the last 16 years of his 27-year DOE career at the Kingsbridge school.