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HS teacher had sex with student, 15: DA

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A high school teacher from Douglaston surrendered to authorities last Thursday on charges that he had had a sexual relationship five years ago with a girl, who was a student in his sophomore English class, at Martin Van Buren High School.

The Queens district attorney said Mark Weisberg, 50, and his student, who was 15 years old at the time, had sexual relations on nine separate occasions inside Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village. The encounters, which allegedly took place between June 1996 and April 1997, typically occurred after class let out and in rooms where the two were unlikely to be found, prosecutors said. They did not occur, however, as a condition of the student’s receiving a passing grade, prosecutors said.

Late last year the former student, who is now 20 years old and was not identified, disclosed the relationship to authorities “because she kept thinking about it and she decided she didn’t want this to happen to anyone else,” said Marjory Fisher, the chief of the Special Victims Bureau of the Queens district attorney’s office.

Weisberg, dressed in a rumpled, navy blue suit with a pair of large glasses on his face, was arraigned in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens last Thursday, after turning himself into authorities that morning. He pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of third-degree sodomy.

Justice Stephen Grosso set bail at $15,000, which Weisberg posted in less than half an hour. Hunched over, wearing a look of bewilderment, Weisberg was led out in handcuffs by two officers.

As he and his wife, who was wearing an oversized faded red coat, left the courthouse with his attorney, neither had any comment on the charges. The defendant’s attorney, Andrew Friedman, declined to comment.

Neither the principal’s office at Martin Van Buren nor the one at John Adams High School, where Weisberg most recently worked, would comment. The assistant deputy superintendent of Queens high schools, Rowena Karsh, had no comment. But neighbors of Weisberg, interviewed near his home on 245th Place in Douglaston, roundly dismissed the allegations.

At the time of the alleged encounters, Weisberg was an English teacher at Martin Van Buren, said Ken Appelbaum, an assistant Queens district attorney. While teaching there, he and the student allegedly had nine encounters in 1996 and 1997 that occurred “in various rooms of the school where the defendant felt he wouldn’t be detected,” Appelbaum said.

Sometime in 1998, concerns about inappropriate communications between Weisberg and the student, which prosecutors declined to elaborate on, began to circulate within the school. The then principal, they said, was aware of these comments, but allegations of a relationship had not surfaced until late last year.

Weisberg was then removed from John Adams High School, where he was teaching until three weeks ago, and transferred to the Board of Education headquarters in Brooklyn.

For the last 19 years, Weisberg has lived in Douglaston with his wife in a nondescript brick home on 245th Place, part of a complex of similar looking buildings on a quiet circular street. Neighbors said he has two children, a son and a daughter.

“I’ve known them a long time,” said a older woman who lives next-door to him. “He’s too sane to have done something stupid like that. I would trust him with my teenage daughter and wouldn’t think twice.”

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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