News We Didn’t Want To Read

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A news item appearing about a Yorktown teacher this past week has brought shock, disbelief, sadness and lack of words to many. The item announced charges brought against Jeff Whalen, a well admired and long time music teacher, by the Westchester District Attorney’s office. The only specifics mentioned in the case accuses Whalen of possessing a depiction of an obscene sexual performance by a child and sharing that depiction on line on August 27th of this year. We learned that Mr. Whalen appeared in court and was released without bail to face the charges at a later date. The school district said authorities are not aware of any involvement with district students. He was also placed on administrative leave from his school position.

Understandable Concerns

Anyone who doesn’t know Mr. Whalen, of course, would be reviled at the suggestion that this is true and would understandably want to see him locked up as a sexual predator. But anyone who knows Mr. Whalen, like we do, is having a hard time processing this and is hoping that the whole thing is a mistake. We’ve already seen reaction in print from some who don’t know Mr. Whalen, so I thought it would be OK for the benefit of readers to share what I know about his past 18 or so years teaching in our community.

Dedicated Teacher

Jeff Whalen was a musical mentor to our late son, Justin, as he has been to countless other music students as they moved through the lower grades. Whalen is the elementary school band director based at Crompond Elementary School. But he has also been involved in inspiring older students who have gone on to develop keen musical skills in the junior high and high school jazz bands. And Mr. Whalen has been known for mentoring older music students outside the classroom, inviting them to perform in venues and even performing along with them. Whalen is an exceptional saxophone player who also performs in professional music jobs. In late 2008, as he had been Justin’s elementary band teacher, he was eager to donate an honor to Justin’s legacy by rearranging one of Justin’s songs for the 20 piece Bensen­Scott Big Band and recording that song for an album tribute to our late son. The band members had great respect for Mr. Whalen and were happy to do it. That big band tune has since literally been heard around the world.

Don’t Rush

So please understand why I and other parents who saw Whalen’s picture with the headline “Yorktown Teacher Faces Child Porn Charges” have a hard time believing such a thing could have happened. We also realize the school administration has no choice but to place Mr. Whalen on leave. What we only ask, however, is that he not be judged or condemned until after his voice is heard and he has his day in court.

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About Author

Jeffrey Veatch has been a news writer at ABC News Radio for 40 plus years. He moved to Yorktown Heights in 1996 with his wife and two children. In September, 2008, Veatch’s life took a drastic turn with the death of his son, Justin, to an accidental drug overdose at age 17. In 2012, Veatch created a multi-media talk called “A Message from Justin,” which tells Justin’s story. By last year, Veatch had delivered that talk to more than 20,000 young people in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. In November 2014, Whispering Spirits, a documentary about Justin and the Veatch family, premiered at The Jacob Burns Film Center.

1 Comment

  1. Yeah, just like those who were arrested during Operation Caireen last year – many people who you never would have thought could do something so despicable. Just because you think you know someone doesn’t mean you know anything about them. Defending someone this gross is just a waste of your time. Take it from the parent of a victim. Don’t waste your time.

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