A former teacher’s aide at a New York special education school is accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old student, police say.
Alexandra Culhane, 24, was arrested Monday on charges of third-degree rape and third-degree criminal sexual act, The Daily Gazette reports.
Culhane worked at Northeast Parent and Child Society in Schenectady, a school for students with special needs overseen by Northern Rivers Family of Services.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Culhane Is Accused of Engaging in ‘Oral Sex & Intercourse’ in a Park With the Then-15-Year-Old Student in 2016
Alex Culhane, 24, of Scotia, was arrested Monday after an investigation that has spanned several months, the Albany Times-Union reports.
Culhane is accused of engaging in “oral sex and intercourse” with the 15-year-old boy in April 2016 at Schenectady’s Central Park, the newspaper reports. She has been under investigation for several months after staff reported her to police and was not working at the school while that was underway.
The case was investigated by the Schenectady Police Department and the New York Justice Center for the Protection of People With Special Needs.
“We do everything in our power to keep the children in our care safe. One incident of this type is too many, and we hold ourselves accountable. The actions referenced in these incidents in no way reflect the values or practices of our organization. This is not who we are.” Eugene White, a spokesman for Northern Rivers, told WRGB-TV.
The organization said it would continue to cooperate in the investigation.
2. She Began Working at the School in 2015 & Was Fired After the School Learned of the Allegations Against Her
Culhane began working at Northeast Parent and Child Society in 2015, according to her Linkedin profile. She was fired in February, after the allegations were brought against her, the Albany Times-Union reports.
The school is licensed by the state education department and has students from grades 6 to 12.
“We constantly monitor and supervise all of our facilities,” Northern Rivers spokesman Eugene White told the newspaper. “If something happens, we want to uncover it immediately and take corrective action. … Transparency and accountability are vitally important.”
Culhane underwent a background check before she was hired, which did not show any issues, officials said.
“Protective measures include fingerprinting, screening with the New York State Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect and the Justice Center staff exclusion list and sex offender registries,” Northern Rivers CEO William Gettman said in a statement. “We also monitor these databases for allegations against current staff. Again, keeping children safe is our job. We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure their safety.”
3. She Graduated From Scotia-Glenville High School & She Has Been a Lacrosse Coach at Her Former School
Culhane graduated from Scotia-Glenville High School in 2010, according to her now-deleted Facebook page. She played field hockey and lacrosse at the high school, news reports from her time there show.
It is not clear if she went to college after high school.
Culhane also worked as a JV field hockey coach at her former high school since 2015. She was let go from that position. School district officials told the Times-Union they did not receive any complaints or have any issues with her prior to learning of the allegations that led to her arrest. She coached at the school during the 2015 and 2016 lacrosse seasons, but did not coach this past season.
Before beginning her career as a teacher’s aide, Culhane worked as an activities assistant at Saint Peter’s Health Partners’ Eddy Memorial Geriatric Center in 2015, according to her Linkedin profile.
She has also worked as a local level lacrosse official for the ABOWLO, and was the program coordinator for the Dayhaven Adult Day Care Center.
4. Culhane Faces Up to 8 Years in Prison if Convicted of the Felony Charges
Culhane was released from custody after she was arrested Monday, July 12, Schenectady Police said. She is scheduled to be arraigned July 3 at 9 a.m. in Schenectady City Court, according to online court records. The case has not yet been assigned to a judge.
She is facing up to eight years in prison if convicted of the two felony charges, third-degree rape and third-degree criminal sexual act.
According to New York state law, both charges are Class E felonies, punishable by a maximum of 4 years in prison. Given her lack of a previous criminal record, she would likely face between to 1 to 2 years in prison, or probation, if found guilty.
It is not clear if Culhane has hired an attorney and she could not be reached for comment.
5. Another Teacher at the School Was Arrested for Physically Assaulting a Student Just Days Before Culhane Was Charged
Culhane’s arrest is the second in a week of a teacher at Northeast Parent and Child Society. Ryan Johnson, 45, was arrested on Friday and fired from his job after being accused of physically assaulting a student.
Johnson is facing charges of endangering the welfare of a child, attempted third-degree assault and second-degree harassment.
According to a press release from the Justice Center for the Protection of People With Special Needs, Johnson, “removed the victim, an adolescent, from his classroom and took the youth into the hall, where he allegedly grabbed the victim near the neck area, and forced the victim against a wall. He is then alleged to have attempted to force the victim to the floor. The attack, which occurred in a Schenectady facility, ended when other Northern Rivers employees intervened.”
“We appreciate the prompt actions of the staff members who intervened before the victim was injured, and who immediately reported the incident to the Justice Center,” Special Prosecutor Patricia Gunning said in a statement. “Without conscientious workers who report abuse when they see it, many instances would go undiscovered.”