MILL BASIN SCHOOL VOLUNTEER ARRESTED
By Neil S. Friedman
A volunteer at a Mill Basin elementary school was arrested last week and charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Following a five-month inquiry by the office of the city's Special Commissioner of Investigation for Schools, they reported that the 23-year-old man allegedly sent several messages that were sexual in nature to a 12-year-old male student.
The volunteer, Colin Leahy, who was a contestant in the third season of "American Idol," maintained a relationship with a former student at P.S. 236 in more than two dozen text messages that contained sexually suggestive references, according to an April 24 report sent to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein by Special Commissioner Richard Condon's office.
The document also noted that Leahy took two 10-year-old boys, who attend the District 22 elementary school, to the movies a couple of times and allegedly made sexual comments to one of them. The younger students told authorities that Leahy never molested them.
Last November, the 12-year-old's mother contacted Mary Barton, principal of the 600-student school at 6302 Avenue U, about the text messages sent by Leahy. Her son told investigators that some of them asked if he was gay, which "upset him" and made him feel "uncomfortable." The boy said some messages asked him if he had a girlfriend and if he liked boys or girls.
The report to Klein noted that Leahy told investigators he was "just curious" about the student's sexuality, but claimed he was "only joking" when he discussed oral sex with the ten-year-old.
The younger boys told investigators that last Oct-ober Leahy treated them to movies in Sheepshead Bay, followed by a meal at a nearby fast food restaurant on one occasion and at the Arch Diner on the other.
A spokesperson for the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, which assisted in the investigation, said Leahy was arraigned on May 7 and released on his own recognizance. A pre-trial hearing scheduled in Brooklyn Criminal Court on Monday was postponed until May 22.
According to Department of Education spokesperson Margie Feinberg, Leahy worked as a paraprofessional at P.S. 236 last year, but was not rehired due to a lack of funding. She said that Leahy went through the standard pre-screening process, including being fingerprinted, and was found to have no prior record before he began working at the school.
He became a volunteer through the non-profit group Learning Leaders, which recruits, trains and supports volunteers at public schools citywide.
Barton promptly dismissed Leahy last fall when she learned of the investigation, according to Fein-berg.
"(Leahy) has been placed on the Department of Education's ineligible list, which means he can never work for the DOE again," Feinberg added.
The Daily News reported last Thursday that Leahy was "briskly" booted from "American Idol" in 2003 due to his poor performance and humiliating rejection. Apparently, Leahy compared himself to the previous season's winner Clay Aiken, saying "I'm also a camp counselor…I like to make people happy and smile."
The three-judge "Idol" panel harshly criticized Leahy's performance of the song, "One Step Closer," with the always-blunt judge Simon Cowell saying, "I can't think of anything I've hated more."
A longtime "American Idol" fan remembered Leahy's performance and said, "He thought he could sing, but he was horrible."