A married public school teacher who pleaded guilty last Thursday to having a sexual relationship with a female student for more than a year starting when she was 13 “is rightly being punished,” according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. He faces up to six months in jail and 10 years probation when he is sentenced on Oct. 18. But advocates from Queens and beyond say that is not nearly enough time, and that it sends the wrong signal to other would-be sex offenders.
Charles Oross, 45, of East Islip, LI was employed as an eighth- grade teacher at IS 238 in Hollis. He allegedly engaged in sexual activity with the girl in an empty classroom and in his car between January 2009 and April 2010, according to the Queens District Attorney’s Office.
“It’s absolutely appalling,” said education advocate Adrienne Adams of Jamaica. “Six months is a reward for a rapist — a gift. It’s very tragic. We are just allowing our children to be victimized.”
Oross pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree criminal sexual act in a plea deal that saw the other charges of second- and third-degree rape and endangering the welfare of a child dropped. He has no prior criminal history, a spokeswoman for the NYPD said Monday.
In addition to jail time, Oross will be required to participate in a sex offender treatment program, to register as a sex offender and to pay a $1,000 supplemental sex offender fee.
“It is both sad and disturbing that a school teacher preyed on a vulnerable young girl for sexual favors,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “Such behavior will not be tolerated.”
If Oross had been found guilty of second-degree rape — someone age 18 or older engaging in sexual intercourse with someone under the age of 15 — he would have received up to seven years in prison on each count.
A day after Oross admitted guilt, Carlos Arango, a Corona-based fake plastic surgeon who disfigured his patients, also received a six- month prison sentence. He pleaded guilty to a felony charge of unlicensed practice of medicine.
According to a spokesman for the Queens DA, Oross “was given the opportunity to plead guilty to the top count of the indictment and to surrender his teacher’s license in order to spare the young victim the ordeal of testifying at trial. The plea and proposed sentence were discussed with the victim and her family prior to today’s court appearance and they were in total agreement with the proposed outcome of this case.”
Crime victims advocate Shawn Williams, 46, of Lefrak City, who was sexually abused as a child, said Oross should have gotten at least five years in prison.
“Six months is not at all adequate,” Williams said. “She is being victimized by the judicial system all over again. This incident is really going to affect her later on in life when she realizes that it was someone in authority who abused her trust.”
Ann Jawin, founder of the Center for the Women of New York in Kew Gardens, expressed similar sentiments, calling the sentence “a slap on the wrist,” but she was pleased that Oross will have to register as a sex offender, so that any future potential employers will know of his history.
“Having sex with a student — a 13-year-old girl — is a very serious offense,” Jawin said. “Six months certainly does not seem like enough time.”
When Oross’ wife was reached by phone on Friday, she said her husband wasn’t home, adding, “Don’t call here again, please,” before hanging up.
Laura Ahearn, a certified social worker, with Parents For Meghan’s Law, based in Stony Brook, and an advocate for sexually victimized children, said the light sentence has greater ramifications than just those for the victim and assailant.
Some 60 percent of girls who have had sex before the age of 15 were coerced by males averaging six years their senior, according to statistics cited by the group on its website, and 44 percent of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 18.
Many child victims never disclose their abuse to anyone and less than 10 percent report the crime to the police, according to PFML.
“This [sentence] sends a message of tolerance and the last thing we should be doing is conveying a message of tolerance when it comes to the sexual victimization of a child,” Ahearn said, “especially when it comes to a person in a position of trust like a teacher.”