BAY SHORE, Long Island — He's a 27-year-old teacher's aide charged with raping a student from his school, in a number of encounters, beginning when she was 14.
Now, Marcus Johnson is in jail, and the ordinarily quiet community here is stunned.
The school paraprofessional had no comment as he was walked from a police holding cell to a van to head to court to stand before a judge Friday. Johnson was given $40,000 bail on charges of rape in the second degree, rape in the third degree and endangering the welfare of a child.
That child is a student at Bay Shore High School, where Johnson works with autistic students in the special education program. The girl is not in Special Ed and is therefore not one of his students. Nonetheless, the impropriety and illegality of the situation, if true, is affecting students and parents alike.
"I was shocked," said the mother of a freshman, who only wanted her first name, Lisa, used. "Nothing like this has ever happened in our school district, let alone the high school," she said.
"I don't know him personally," said Taylia Hiner, a senior at Bay Shore High. She said she sees Johnson around school from time to time, and he's typically unassuming. "We weren't expecting it," Hiner told PIX11 News. Sometimes, she added, "people aren't who they say they are."
Aureon Hines is Taylia's mother. She pointed out that Johnson is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. She also referenced the school's academics. "The school has done a great job," she said. However, adding, "Unfortunatlely, people can be taken advantage of."
"You look at the school different," said Nick Buono, another senior at Bay Shore. He recommended that his school alter its selection process for faculty and staff.
"They have a better option of interviewing people," Buono said, "better background checks."
Meanwhile, at Johnson's home on Friday, none of his relatives had anything to say on his behalf. The situation was the same at court, where the teacher's assistant's attorney simply said, "No comment."
The Bay Shore School District, however, issued a statement that said that the district "became aware of an allegation involving an improper relationship occurring outside of school between a female high school student and a male paraprofessional."
"The matter was promptly investigated by school officials and referred to the Suffolk County Police Department," the statement continues, "resulting in an arrest."
"The safety of our students is always our paramount concern. We will continue to cooperate with the police department on this matter," the statement says.