A middle school teacher in South Florida has been arrested for allegedly molesting a male student every week for a year in a supply closet before sending him back to class with a note excusing his absence.
Aaron Mohanlal is charged with 37 counts of lewd and lascivious behavior involving a 15-year-old boy, who recently told his parents about the alleged abuse.
Mohanlal, 37, is a teacher at New Renaissance Middle School in Miramar, Fla., and may have been involved with more than one child, according to police.
“There was such a network of kids around this guy that went beyond the student-teacher relationship,” Police Capt. Bruce Keesling told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Detectives are also probing claims the teacher gave other juveniles cell phones.
He was taken into custody Friday and was held on $370,000 bail. A Broward County Schools spokesman says if Mohanlal posts bail, he can return to work at the district, but without any contact with children until an internal investigation is completed.
Officials say the abuse started at the end of the alleged victim’s seventh-grade year and lasted some 18 months.
The majority of the molestation is said to have occurred in the art room supply closet when the teacher was free for a work period.
Keesling told the paper several incidents took place at the teacher’s house and in the teacher’s car.
He said the teen, whose name was being withheld, informed his parents last week, as he sought to end the relationship with the teacher, though Mohanlal reportedly kept pursuing the boy.
The family has hired an attorney, Diana Santa Maria, who said the family is “extremely distraught” and angry about the events, but is trying to give the boy the support he needs to recover.
“They feel betrayed by the obvious negligence of the school board, in which they placed their trust,” Santa Maria told the Sun-Sentinel. “The administration and teachers are responsible for the safety and security of children.”
Mohanlal has been working for the Broward School District since August 2001, and has no prior criminal history.
“I think parents need to withhold judgment until all of the facts are known,” district spokesman Joe Donzelli said. “I’d urge people to let the process work itself out to find out exactly what took place and not make the assumption that everything this child said happened.”