A Suffield school employee and former leader of the Shriners in Springfield has been charged with child pornography possession, posing a child in the nude and additional charges.
Gardner Whitney, 61, of Westfield, Massachusetts, was charged with indecent assault and battery, four counts of possession of child pornography, three counts of posing a child in the nude, and three counts of secretly recording a nude person, according to the Hampden County District Attorney’s office. He was arraigned on Wednesday.
According to WWLP, Whitney denied the charges.
The Suffield School Department issued a statement on Friday afternoon.
“I received notification on January 23, 2013, from the Suffield Police Department, that a non-certified employee of the Suffield Public Schools was arrested on January 22, 2013 by Massachusetts State Police for possession of child pornography on equipment unrelated to school,” Karen Baldwin, Superintendent of Schools in Suffield, said in a statement. “In accordance with its standard procedures, the District immediately began to work collaboratively with the police to investigate this allegation. The District will review the police reports and any further proceedings in this action to determine what, if any, further action should be taken by the Suffield Public Schools. As this is an ongoing investigation at this point, it would not be appropriate to comment further. However, please be assured that, as always, the safety and welfare of all of our students is our first priority.”
Whitney has been with Suffield schools since 2009 and works as a tutor. School officials said that he is always with a staff member when he is with students.
The Shriners also issued a statement.
“We are saddened and deeply disappointed by the allegations facing former Melha Shriner Potentate, Gardner Whitney. Our thoughts and prayers are with the alleged victims during this difficult time.We expect our members to be professional, moral and ethical in all of their interactions with children, colleagues and community members. We will not tolerate any conduct that is inappropriate and unbecoming of a Melha Shriner. We will take corrective action and all disciplinary measures under organization by-laws whenever there is evidence of any misconduct. We encourage members of the Melha Shriners and the community to support each other through this difficult time, and look to a more positive tomorrow.”