An elementary school teacher’s aide has been arrested for sexually abusing six female students on multiple occasions, officials said.
Brett Picou, a 30-year-old paraprofessional at P.S. 52 in Jamaica, allegedly slapped and held the buttocks of several girls, ages nine and 10, many times as they walked up the stairs or bent over to tie their shoes, the district attorney said. According to officials, Picou also moved his hands down their backs and touched their buttocks after hugging them.
The incidents took place between last November and February 15 of this year, according to the district attorney. Court records also show one case in which Picou allegedly lifted up the skirt of one female student and rubbed his fingers on her thigh.
“I am sad to report, once again, that a professional employed in our public schools has been accused of inappropriately touching his students,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “The charges in cases of this nature are disturbing on a number of different levels. When parents deliver their kids into the custody of teaching professionals, they have a right to assume that they will not be abused. The alleged actions of this defendant can never be tolerated.”
The case came to light when school personnel overheard the students talking about the incidents. School officials then immediately contacted the police, the district attorney said.
While criminal investigations remain ongoing, ripples of concern continue to spread throughout the parent body.
“I’m in shock right now. I didn’t even know that was going on,” said Shahiarra Fraser, parent of a four-year-old daughter in the school. “This worries me. It makes me want to take my child out of this school.”
Some parents told The Courier the whole thing could have been prevented if the school conducted background checks and followed up with complaints reported earlier.
Evelyn, a parent who did not want to disclose her last name, said one female student spoke up about Picou previously, but was told by school staff that she was “blowing it out of proportion.”
“I didn’t think she was lying. When a kid says something, you should listen,” Evelyn said. “That’s the school’s fault for not checking.”
Still, one parent of an eight-year-old girl — and close friend of the alleged offender — said she has and will continue to trust Picou.
“This is very shocking and very disturbing to hear, and I don’t think the accusations are true,” said Candice White, who said she has known Picou for over 10 years. “He’s not the type to do that — not to my knowledge. I trust him. After knowing him and growing up with him, I would never suspect him of doing that.”
White said Picou had just gotten married last year and is also a newly-minted father.
Still, not all parents were as trusting, and echoes of anger reverberated around P.S. 52’s playground after school hours.
“All these kids in here… he could have had any opportunity to be alone with them at any point in the school. It’s crazy,” said one parent named Kevin, who did not want to give his last name. “If that was my daughter, he wouldn’t have to worry about the police getting him. That’s disgusting.”
Picou is charged with seven counts of first-degree sexual abuse, seven counts of forcible touching, one count of second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child and six counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
P.S. 52 declined to comment, and Department of Education officials did not respond as of press time. However, The Courier has learned that school officials sent a letter to parents on February 27, informing them of the allegations. According to the letter, Picou has been suspended and removed from the school.
Parents who suspect their child may have been harmed or those who believe their child may know more information pertaining to the crimes are asked to call Principal Pough at 718-528-2238 or to immediately notify the police.