Queens High School has been silent on teacher scandals for years

A prominent Queens high school quietly fired a physics teacher who had engraved “DEATH” on his chest in photos seen by students, and a chemistry teacher who remained in class for eight years after investigators found out. he had touched girls, according to records.

The alleged misconduct at Townsend Harris HS – kept a secret for years by most staff, students and parents – is detailed in public reports issued by the special commissioner of inquiries for the city’s schools at the behest of The Post.

The revelations follow news that SCI discovered that Joseph Canzoneri, an English teacher, coach and theater director at Townsend Harris, had had sex with a former student. After the girl refused to testify against him, Canzoneri was sent back to school last fall, where he still had contact with children unaware of the charges, student newspaper The Classic reported.

“It really shows that the system is down and not really safe for everyone,” a freshman said during a sit-in protesting student exposure to accused predators.

Previous scandals were also hushed up, The Post has learned. Thomas Sangiorgi, an award-winning chemistry professor, was the target of two probes, in 2008 and 2016. Both discovered he had touched and rubbed girls, and made contemptuous comments. He ultimately retired from the DOE in 2016 to settle misconduct charges, avoiding public scrutiny. He has since worked as an Assistant Lecturer at Queens College, where Townsend Harris is located.

Joseph Canzoneri would have slept with a former student, according to information published by the special commissioner of investigations.
Townsend Harris HS

“This staffing issue is being reviewed by the college’s human resources office,” said Queens College spokeswoman Maria Matteo. She wouldn’t say if the college has ever been made aware of the DOE charges.

In the first SCI report, sent to then-Chancellor Joel Klein, a student said Sangiorgi walked past her in a narrow passage and “intentionally”, she believed, rubbed the front of her body against her back. . Two other students told SCI that Sangiorgi touched or rubbed them.

The then director simply slapped Sangiorgi with a “letter of rebuke,” the DOE said. Sangiorgi stayed for another eight years until the second investigation.

In the 2016 report, a student said Sangiorgi played with the zipper on her dress, put her fingers up her sleeve and twirled her locks, saying, “I wish my girlfriend had hair like you.”

Thomas sangiorgio
Thomas Sangiorgi was the target of two probes, in 2008 and 2016.

The report, sent to then-chancellor Carmen Fariña, said two students told pollsters the teacher was ecstatic about their appearance at the ball – telling one she “looked like a woman. – and asked them for pictures.

“Student A” said the teacher massaged her neck once using her thumb “in a circular fashion”. She “described feeling sick when Sangiorgi touched her”. In another incident, she said Sangiorgi told her that the unbuttoned cardigan worn over a shirt was too loose for the chemistry lab. He then “physically removed the sweater from Student A’s body.” He was standing so close “that she could smell coffee and cigarettes on her breath and it made her want to throw up.”

“Student C” told SCI that Sangiorgi “touched his chest with his index finger” five to ten times from 2015 to 2016, and “touched his thigh just above his knee” to others times while sitting on a desk, according to the report.

Sangiorgi also commented to a girl on Facebook, “I know you have a dark side” and “I’ll try not to turn you on too much,” the report said.

The teacher declined to speak to SCI investigators and did not respond to Post messages.

In another case, physics professor Edward Gruszecki posted disturbing photos on Facebook – where some of his students were “friends” – showing self-inflicted cuts to the face, torso and arms, SCI said in a 2015 report to then-Chancellor Fariña.

Edouard Gruszecki
Edward Gruszecki was fired from the DOE in 2014.
Leanne Gonzalez

“In addition to the photo showing ‘DEATH’ engraved on Gruszecki’s chest, another showed clippings explaining ‘WHY’,” the report sent to then-Chancellor Fariña said. Some students were alarmed and alerted the school staff. In a post, Gruszecki wrote that he was not suicidal.

A former student, now 26, told the Post that she developed a very moving and heartbreaking personal relationship with Gruszecki, exchanged intimate emails with the married instructor and viewed the photos. “I know a group of students saw the photos from Facebook,” she said. “He did it to get attention, to make others feel bad for him, out of sympathy.”

Gruszecki, now 51, posted another photo showing what appeared to be blood smeared on his mouth in a creepy “Joker” smile. Sources told the Post that he dressed up as a fictional villain in a school production and on Halloween. The teacher also issued an invitation to a local bar with free drinks “if you’re underage,” SCI found.

The DOE quickly terminated Gruszecki in 2014, officials said. Not established, he was not entitled to a disciplinary trial. He did not respond to investigators in January 2015, the SCI said, and did not resend the Post’s messages.

    Edouard Gruszecki
Gruszecki dressed up as the Joker in a school production and on Halloween.

Gruszecki and Sangiorgi are still licensed to teach in New York City, according to a state Department of Education website.

“This conduct was completely unacceptable and the DOE took action to ensure that these former employees could never again work in our schools,” said spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon.

Among the reforms, she added, a Chancellor’s regulation amended in 2019 prohibits any DOE employee from “creating a hostile school environment for a student through their behavior and / or their verbal or written actions.”

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