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Forest Hills school safety agent charged in student sex abuse

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Melvin Whitaker, 43, was arrested after the 18-year-old student reported to police that the agent put his hand underneath the student's clothes and touched his genitals while frisking him in a back room at P-4 Secondary School Friday, officials said.Police said the student had personal items confiscated from him by Whitaker earlier in the day and was returning to retrieve them that afternoon when the incident allegedly happened.According to the complaint, the student also said that from March 1 through April 21 Whitaker touched him between his legs three times, but outside the clothes, causing the student "annoyance and alarm."Whitaker, of Brooklyn, was suspended from his job at the special education school at 108-55 69th Ave. and charged with five counts of sexual abuse and one count of harassment. He faces up to 90 days in jail if convicted. He was released on his own recognizance Saturday and was due back in court May 11, the Queens district attorney's office said.The incident was the latest in a string of cases involving what was believed to be inappropriate behavior in Queens schools this month.On April 12, another school safety officer, Albert Blacks, was charged with reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child after allegedly burning a 16-year-old student's hair with a lighter at Springfield Gardens High School, the DA said.And last week the Department of Education said it was seeking the termination of a former Queens teacher who is suspected of having sex with two female students - a 16-year-old at August Martin High School, where he used to teach, and an 18-year-old at Richmond Hill High School, where he taught up until last month.In addition, a former Cardozo High School social studies teacher was sentenced to six months in prison earlier this month for having sexually explicit conversations online last summer with someone he believed to be a 14-year-old boy but was an officer, the DA said."So far we've been very fortunate with the teachers we have," said Barbara Stuchinski, president of the Forest Hills Civic Association. "But too many rotten apples are slipping through the system recently."Reach reporter Zach Patberg by email at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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