A permanent substitute teacher at Stevens Cooperative School in Hoboken and Jersey City was arrested on Jan. 7 on alleged child pornography charges. Meanwhile, a popular violin teacher in Jersey City made a court appearance two weeks ago on molestation charges.
Parents on local internet newsgroups have been discussing both cases and asking how they can protect their children from predators.
Guy West, 44, had been with the private school since 1998 and taught at both the Hoboken and Jersey City campuses, which are located at 301 Garden St. in Hoboken and 100 River Drive in Jersey City. West was charged at his home with one count of allegedly distributing child abuse images over the internet.
A complaint from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said that the FBI seized digital evidence that allegedly included “material that involved prepubescent minors and material that portrays sadistic or masochistic conduct.”
Also, according to the complaint, between 9 p.m. and 9:31 p.m. an undercover agent downloaded over 120 image files and 24 video files from West’s folders, all which depicted child pornography, specifically prepubescent boys.
“The best thing that all parents can do is keep an open line of communication with their children.” – Wendy Eaton
The violin instructor from 676 School of Violin and Fine Arts in Jersey City, Henry W. Granderson, who has allegedly also called himself Muhammad Bilal, made a recent court appearance on charges he allegedly engaged in a two-year long assault of an 8-year-old female pupil.
When a news story was published about the appearance, it prompted another alleged molestation victim to come forward, whose story is being investigated. Hudson County Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Debra Simon said Wednesday that a 10-year-old female student of Granderson’s came forward regarding a one-time incident against the teacher.
Granderson has a prior child abuse conviction from 1999, which was public knowledge, Simon said.
Screening or not
According to Director of Communications for Stevens Cooperative School Wendy Eaton, West worked a normal daily schedule and was in the classroom almost every day.
“Mr. West was used where he was needed, in the office, in classrooms when extra teacher help was needed and substituting for absent teachers,” said Eaton. “Many of our families felt warmly about him. There were never any reports from parents that he had acted inappropriately with students.”
When asked what type of screening process the schools use to check teachers’ backgrounds, Eaton said that although it is not required by law for independent or private schools to conduct criminal history background checks on employees, Stevens Cooperative School chooses to have the New Jersey Department of Education’s Criminal History Review Unit conduct them anyway. This, according to Eaton, is in addition to interviews with a variety of administrators and faculty. Applicants are also required to provide an array of references that are thoroughly checked.
West apparently had no prior record.
“According to what we heard from the FBI on Monday, there is no way to tell who would be involved in these kinds of activities, or screen for these attributes,” Eaton said in an email. The school had an open meeting with parents and the FBI that day.
What can parents do?
So what can parents do to protect their children?
Eaton said Thursday by email, “According to our school counselor as well as representatives from the FBI, the best thing that all parents can do is keep an open line of communication with their children in regards to all aspects of safety (personal, physical, school, technology). These conversations should take place frequently and parents should ask their children to tell them if anyone, in any setting, makes them feel uncomfortable.”
According to sources, West faces 20 years in prison if convicted.
“The FBI shared with us that Mr. West is still being held without bond, and that they are continuing the investigation,” Eaton added.
School officials have said there is no evidence that West was involved in any improprieties involving students at the school.
Amanda Palasciano may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.