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.
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.
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.
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.