A Queens elementary school teacher was arrested Thursday, accused of sexually abusing two young students, police said.
Wilbert Cortez, a 49-year-old computer teacher at PS 174 in Rego Park, was arrested on charges of second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child and acting in a manner to injure a child under 17.
A law enforcement source said Cortez is accused of abusing two students, an 8-year-old boy and a 9-year-old boy, during the 2010-11 school year. The boys told investigators that Cortez rubbed their groins and buttocks while in the classroom.
School administrators sent a letter home to students Thursday informing them of Cortez's arrest and stating that investigators may be in touch. The school planned to hold a meeting for parents Friday morning.
District officials said Cortez began working at PS 184 in Brooklyn in 1986, and became a full-time teacher there in 1990. In March 2000, the special commissioner of investigation for the New York City School District investigated Cortez for allegations of inappropriate touching and recommended that disciplinary action be taken against him. Police were not notified of the allegations at the time, according to a law enforcement source.
In September of that year, Cortez was transferred to PS 174.
When allegations of inappropriate touching again surfaced against Cortez at PS 174 in October 2011, Cortez was reassigned away from students to an office job, officials said.
Cortez is being represented by Donald Vogelman, who was present with his client when he turned himself in Thursday morning to the Queens Child Abuse Squad. Vogelman said he would not comment until after his client saw a judge and heard the exact charges.
In a statement Thursday, schools chancellor Dennis Walcott said, "No adult who inappropriately touches a student, in or out of school, belongs anywhere near the children we are responsible for protecting. I will do everything in my power to ensure that individuals like Mr. Cortez can be swiftly removed from our classrooms as soon as allegations surface -- and be barred from teaching in our schools if those charges are substantiated."
Cortez is the third New York City school district employee to be arrested on sex abuse charges in just over a week. Taleek Brooks, a teacher's aide at PS 243 in Brooklyn, was arrested Feb. 7, and Gregory Atkins, a teacher's aide at PS 87 on the Upper West Side was arrested Feb. 10.