Thursday, July 17, 2008

Teacher Charged with Raping Disabled Student

Taught Queens Boy at Upstate Residential School

by Conor Greene

A Dutchess County special education teacher has been charged with having sex with a 15-year-old disabled student from south Queens.

Mandi Weeks, 27, of Hannacroix has been accused of third-degree rape and other charges for abusing the child in his home and a nearby parking lot. She was arrested last week by detectives from the 102nd Precinct. The boy is a student at Devereux New York, a residential special needs school, and was at home on break at the time of the alleged attacks.

“The charges are very disturbing,” said District Attorney Richard Brown. “The victim is believed to have a 50 IQ, making him particularly vulnerable to a teacher who is supposed to have his best interest in mind.”

The investigation began after the victim boarded a subway in an effort to meet up with Weeks but got lost, according to Brown. His mother reported him missing to police, and discovered inappropriate e-mails from the teacher on her son’s computer, said Brown. She is accused of raping and sexually abusing the boy on June 25th inside his home, and then sexually abusing him while sitting inside a car in a parking lot on June 6. She then allegedly raped and sexually abusing him later that day inside his home.

She was arraigned last Tuesday in Queens Criminal Court on an eight-count indictment charging her with rape, criminal sexual act, endangering the welfare of a child and sexual abuse. She was ordered held on $15,000 bond and is due back in court on August 11. If convicted, she faces up to four years in prison.

Weeks worked at the school, based in upstate Red Hook, since February 2007 and “was subjected to a rigorous screening process and criminal background check” before being hired, according to John O’Keefe, executive director of Devereux Foundation New York. “There was nothing in either to cause concern,” he said in a statement, adding that Weeks has been fired and is not permitted back on campus.

The defendant says on her page that she got married last October and lives in a log cabin with her husband and six cats. “I work in a residenial [sic] school for students with multiple disabilities which is extremely stressful,” she wrote. ‘My students verbally and physically assault me almost on a daily basis. And people wonder why I started smoking. Hey, at least they are ultra lights... as if Klonopin 3 times a day wasn’t enough.”

She lists Law and Order among her favorite television shows and her mom as her hero. She also likes to “just connect with my friends from work” in her free time and describes herself as Christian. She puts her income at $30,000 to $45,000 and says she would like to have children “someday.”

“The Devereux staff is shocked and saddened by such a charge,” said O’Keefe’s statement. “The welfare of our students is our top priority. We will cooperate fully with law enforcement officials and we will review our internal policies and procedures in order to insure the safety and security of those we serve. We have reached out to the family of the student to express our concern and regret and to do what we can to help them address the issues that arise from such a matter.”