Newton officials try to allay parents’ fears

NEWTON — Officials assured worried parents Tuesday night that their children are safe in the city’s schools, after the arrest last week of a F.A. Day Middle School math teacher on charges of possessing and distributing child pornography.

“First and foremost, public safety is a priority for this community,” Mayor Setti Warren said at a city meeting at the Day school, attended by more than 100 parents. “I have full faith and trust in what is going on in Newton public schools as far as our children.”

Sixth-grade teacher and high school gymnastics coach Steven Chan, 57, pleaded not guilty in Newton District Court on Friday to charges that he downloaded thousands of sexually explicit images, some of girls as young as 4 years old, and shared pornographic images online. He is the second Newton teacher in the past year and a half to be charged with child pornography.


Former Underwood Elementary School teacher David Ettlinger was sentenced this year to 45 years in prison for his role in an online child pornography ring, after his arrest in January 2012. Police Chief Howard Mintz has said there is no apparent connection between the two cases.

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On Tuesday night, parents worried that school administrators were missing red flags. “Do we have to wait until a crisis hits our children?” asked Aytul Farquharson, who has a young son at another Newton school.

Chan had no criminal record, so his criminal background checks always came up clean, and school officials said there were no complaints against him that would have pointed to the crimes he is now accused of.

School Superintendent David Fleishman has said the district would review its background check procedures, but he said Tuesday that even in retrospect, no one in the district who knows Chan can come up with any clues.

“People were stunned,” he said. “We have teachers at Day Middle School who knew this person for 23 years.”

Evan Allen can be reached at