BABYLON, NY (CBSNewYork) – New York Attorney General Letitia James launches an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse at a high school on Long Island.
As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reports, a lawyer, police officer and doctoral student are the latest among several former Babylon Junior-Senior High students to report experiencing sexual misconduct by their teachers and coaches.
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“I first came forward when I was 16 with my story and wasn’t taken seriously. And now I’m 30, coming back to where I was traumatized, ”said Babylon HS graduate Darcy Orlando Bennet.
The attorney general said his office took the complaints seriously and launched a civilian investigation.
“Every student on Long Island and New York deserves to feel safe and protected at school. Reports of sexual abuse of students by their teachers and coaches are troubling and should be investigated. My office is launching an investigation into the Babylon School District into these disturbing allegations, ”James said in a statement Tuesday. “The safety and well-being of students – past and present – is of the utmost importance, and we will do everything in our power to protect their right to a safe learning environment. “
“A feeling of relief, but also a feeling of, like, a fire burning in me. Like, I am determined to fix this problem. I have a daughter who will be entering grade 7 next year, ”said Barbara Maier, Babylon HS graduate.
After an avalanche of complaints and a six-hour board meeting, Babylon’s general manager put five employees on paid leave and a sixth resigned. A seventh teacher – a coach – is no longer with the district. Her alleged sexual relationship with Brittany Rohl, class of 2011, is what triggered this. She was the first to come forward.
“He told me he was going to take my virginity because no one else could love me like him,” Rohl said.
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The floodgates have opened and survivors continue to share their stories.
“He would ask me, for example, ‘Do you have boyfriends? “And he would love to try massaging my shoulders and still find a way to touch me,” said Sienna Klaas Puleo, 2009 Babylon HS graduate.
“If they break these rules, if they break the laws, if they put our children in danger, they are held accountable,” said Michael Durso, member of the New York State Assembly.
In a statement, the school district said it is fully cooperating with investigations by the state attorney general and the state education ministry and is in contact with the crime victims center to train the staff and student services.
“Personally, I believe it is something like the scandals of the Catholic Church. They didn’t fire the teachers. They either reassign them or they go to another school district and the predatory behavior continues, ”Senator Phil Boyle said.
The women who spoke allege that there have been systemic cover-ups for decades.
Suffolk County Director Steve Bellone released a statement on Tuesday, applauding the Attorney General for the investigation.
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“I am in awe of the courageous people who have stepped forward, whether past or present, to tell their story. Their allegations must be fully investigated and I am convinced that this will now happen with the investigation by the Attorney General, ”the statement read in part.