Today in Education News: Queens Teacher Has Fifth-Graders Send Christmas Cards to Prisoner Who Faced Child Porn Charges

Posted by on Feb 16, 2012 at 12:40 pm
johncoccarelli

Guess she just wanted to cheer her criminal friend up for the holidays. Though it’s probably not the best idea to have fifth-graders send cards with their names and addresses on them.

Officials at the Department of Education say they are looking to fire a Queens teacher who had her fifth-grade students send Christmas cards to a prison inmate who was previously been charged with possessing child pornography.

The city’s special commissioner of investigation, Richard Condon, says Melissa Dean, 31, had her class in P.S. 143 at Corona, Queens send cards to John Coccarelli, who appears to have had a relationship with her.

The teacher did not ask permission from parents or the school and officials say many of the cards had the children’s names and addresses on them.

“She told them they were going to homeless people, going to people in the service, that they were going to people who lived alone,” said Condon. “I have no idea what this woman was thinking.”

She probably was thinking the teacher’s union would have her back, judging by their history.

“Totally ridiculous and absurd and something that we should not tolerate at all and we are not going to tolerate it,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott on Wednesday. “As soon as we heard about it, we removed the teacher. We are moving for that teacher’s termination. It’s something that’s totally unacceptable when I heard about it, and I can’t say on air what I said to myself because I just find it mind-boggling.”

Investigators say Dean bundled the cards up together with a card of her own, which she signed “Wifey,” and sent them to Coccarelli at the upstate Groveland Correctional Facility, where he is serving time for weapons charges and for violating an order of protection.

However, officials at the Nassau County district attorney’s office say Coccarelli was charged with one count of “possessing an obscene sexual performance on a child” back in 2008.

The criminal complaint related to that charge said that Coccarelli possessed a floppy disc containing nearly 30 sexually explicit photos of underage children, though he ultimately was not convicted.

The correctional officer in charge of security at Groveland intercepted the cards and did not deliver them, and instead called the principal of P.S. 143, starting the investigation.

“Suppose he got those cards, I don’t know where they would end up in the prison. And you have information on 10- and 11-year-old children, their names in some instances, their addresses, and in some instance personal instances about them,” said Condon. “They have no right to do that.”

Dean and Coccarelli appear to be quite close.

When Gorski questioned Dean, the 31-year-old teacher admitted that Coccarelli was her friend but said he was in prison for a violation of an order of protection. (Between November 2010 and November 2011, Dean visited Coccarelli 11 times and, between September 7, 2011 and January 3, 2012, Coccarelli called Dean 312 times.) Dean also admitted she didn’t have permission from the students’ parents but she “asserted to Gorski that she felt it was not a school-related matter and reported that she mailed the package from a Post Office on Long Island,” saying it “was a nice thing to do.”

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2 Responses to “Today in Education News: Queens Teacher Has Fifth-Graders Send Christmas Cards to Prisoner Who Faced Child Porn Charges”

  1. Blue Hen on 17/17/12 at 5:43 am

    “Not school related”. Huh huh. That’s why she had the students for which she was responsible cranking out Chritsmas cards. Because it WASN’T school related. Good news: Public schools are now honoring Christmas. Bad news: they ain’t honoring it in a way that’s even slightly sane.

  2. FrancisChalk on 18/18/12 at 4:43 am

    The Schools Chancellor is moving to terminate the teacher. Bravo! I think this might be the first in the history of public schools in America that a teacher may be fired without being a convicted serial killer.