A Queens middle school teacher was arrested Monday and charged with sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl he had taught in elementary school. He was a popular teacher who could have many people take his side throughout this ordeal. Although he is not due back in court until next month, it is absolutely imperative that maintaining the victim's safety during and after the trial is the primary objective, especially if her identity is compromised.
Daniel Reilly is a married former Marine who had no history of disciplinary problems since he was hired at Intermediate School 237 in 2007. His alleged relationship with the victim began in August when he began texting the then-13-year-old, and could have lasted until as soon as last week. The girl's sister found Reilly's text messages on her cell phone and immediately told their parents, who notified school authorities. Somehow, the district decided not to fire Reilly, but instead reassigned him to an administrative position when his wife bailed him out of jail on Tuesday. The girl has since changed schools.
On Wednesday, police discovered that Reilly was Facebook friends with several of his former students, some as young as 11-years-old. The social networking profile has been taken over and is being used as evidence.
Despite the charges levied against him, including second-degree rape, criminal sexual acts, and endangering the welfare of a child, several former students and neighbors immediately jumped to Reilly's defense when they heard about his arrest.
"He was actually a really cool teacher," said a girl who was in his class last year. "He was funny, he was nice, he joked around a lot."
A neighbor went so far as to assert, "Somebody’s fabricating things about him."
These are troubling replies to news of a young girl's rape, especially considering the nature of the incidents. Reilly allegedly took the girl to his apartment at least ten times to have sex with her while his wife and baby daughter were out. While he claimed the girl responded positively to his messages, the politics of the teacher-student relationship could have caused her to be hesitant to reply any other way.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown was one to put the situation into perspective, saying, "This case is particularly disturbing. Schools should be safe havens for children. Instead, this defendant is accused of sexually preying upon one of his former students."
"As I've said before, this is totally unacceptable," agreed New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. "We have no tolerance for that. Keep your hands off our students."
Reilly faces seven years in prison if convicted of all charges. For the moment, teachers at I.S. 237 are reminding students not to talk to press, as he has not been convicted of any charges. Prosecutors have issued an order of protection for the victim, and this will hopefully dissuade those who could reveal her identity for personal gain.