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Parents, Politicians Question Education Dept. Over Recent Alleged Sex Abuse Arrests

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Politicians and child advocates are banding together to put pressure on the Department of Education after allegations that New York kids were molested in their schools, CBS 2's Dave Carlin reports.

Police made two arrests this week: teacher's aide Gregory Atkins in Manhattan and another teacher's aide, Taleek Brooks, in Brooklyn.

"Our schools cannot be safe zones for pedophiles. It must be safe zones for children," said State Senator Eric Adams.

"This is a crime where we can have absolutely zero tolerance," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

After the arrest of 56-year-old Atkins, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott issued a statement, "We have a responsibility to preserve a safe and nurturing environment in our schools, and we take this allegation very seriously."

Atkins is accused of sexually abusing a student at P.S. 87 on the Upper West Side, and it turns out he was investigated before at another school, where a mother grew suspicious because he gave her son gifts, took him on outings and offered to babysit.

They were classic warnings signs, according to former sex crimes prosecutor Ama Dwimoh.

"You will see perhaps an adult paying too much attention to the child. Unusual phone calls, why is this adult person calling my child?" she said.

Atkins was never charged after the previous investigation but some now question putting him in another classroom.

"Why did he get a second go around?" Stringer asked. "That has to be investigated and we need a full investigation."

A spokesperson with the DOE said Atkins "was given a background check when he was hired as any DOE employee."

Brooklyn teacher's aide Taleek Brooks of P.S. 243 was arrested on child porn and other charges, accused of possessing videos that allegedly show him spanking one naked child and fondling another in a classroom.

Experts say young victims are reluctant to come forward, and that one must watch for any mood and behavior changes.

"Take the time. Talk to your children," Dwimoh said. "Pay attention to the details. The hardest thing for a child victim is to come forward and to talk and disclose something that someone has done that they know. These aren't strangers. These are people we entrust our children with."

An emergency meeting is set for Monday at P.S. 87, where parents will demand answers from the Chancellor Walcott and other DOE leaders who are vowing to cooperate in any way they can as these investigations go forward.

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