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(NECN: Greg Wayland, Newton, Mass.) - David Fleischman says he and the entire Newton school community are shocked and never saw it coming.
They never had any hint that 57-year-old math teacher Steven Chan would be accused of possessing and distributing child pornography.
Fleischman is Newton School Superintendent. He, Mayor Setti Warren and police chief Howard Mintz plan to hold a community meeting on the evening of Tuesday, September 3, at the A.F. Day Middle School, one of two schools where Chan was a teacher.
A Mass. State Police Internet crime task force, which includes members of the Newton Police, were probing shared internet files last June when they came upon the pornographic images. They traced them to Chan’s home and on Thursday, armed with a search warrant, seized thousands of images from three hard drives, several DVDs and computer laptops.
They say Chan admitted to downloading, viewing and distributing them.
He has been charged with three counts of possessing and distributing child porn. Prosecutors say all the images were of girls well under 18, some as young as four, nude and engaged in simulated sexual activity.
Administrators and colleagues are shocked because they say Chan was an excellent teacher, teaching math at the Day School and boys' gymnastics at Newton North High. They say he was trusted, well-liked and an excellent teacher who had worked in the school system for 23 years.
Chan is married and has two teenaged sons. He’s been suspended with pay, is being held on $35,000 bail and is due for a pre-trail conference October 8.
School officials, anxious to show how seriously they are taking this issue, say they are preparing a letter of dismissal for Chan.
Chan is an immigrant of Pacific-Asian heritage, according to court papers. He came to the country in 1969.
What is especially distressing to school officials is that this is the second arrest of a Newton teacher for child pornography in 18 months. Last year, second grade teacher David Ettlinger was arrested and is now serving a lengthy prison sentence.
Teacher’s aide Casey MacKenzie works at the Day Middle School and says Chan had a great reputation.
"I’m disgusted, and I could cry. That could have been my kid," she said.
On that note – and this is one of the few bright notes – prosecutors say no Newton children were the subject of the Internet porn downloaded and distributed by Chan.