Harlem Teacher Accused of Yearlong Affair With Student

By James Fanelli on July 22, 2013 7:00am 

 A teacher at P.S. 79 in East Harlem had more than a yearlong affair with a former student, city investigators say.
A teacher at P.S. 79 in East Harlem had more than a yearlong affair with a former student, city investigators say.
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DNAinfo.com/James Fanelli

EAST HARLEM — A lovesick city student shocked officials when he returned to his former school to seek advice from an old mentor about his ex — a special ed teacher.

That's how city investigators say they learned that the substitute teacher at the school, 29-year-old Gretel Moreira, and the student had carried on a sexual relationship that lasted for more than a year and involved dates to pizza shops, sleepovers at each other's homes and hundreds of calls to one another.

The heartbroken student showed up at P.S. 79 in East Harlem on Sept. 28 last year, refusing to leave until he spoke with a mentor at the school, according to a report by the office of the Special Commissioner of Investigations Richard Condon.

The student told the mentor that his ex had stopped calling him recently.

The mentor, who is not identified in the report, first assumed the student was referring to a former classmate. But when the mentor asked which classmate upset the student, he responded, "Who says she was a student? She's not."

"She broke my heart. You know how she is," the student added.

The student wouldn't tell school officials the name of his ex, but his unexpected visit prompted them to contact city investigators.

When investigators from Condon's office met with the student, he told them about his relationship with Moreira, the report says. 

He told investigators the two had started seeing each other in September 2010. At the time the student attended P.S. 79, but later transitioned to another school. The age of the student is redacted in the report, but P.S. 79, a special needs school, serves grades six through 12.

The student's first date with Moreira was at Uno Chicago Grill on the Upper East Side, according to the report. After that he and Moreira grew close, with subsequent outings to Dave & Busters and Johnny Rockets in Midtown and lower Manhattan, the report says.

In summer 2011, the two began having sex at her Bronx apartment, according to the report. Later the hookups happened at motels and hotels in Manhattan, investigators say. The relationship became so intense that the two even talked about marriage and having children, the student told investigators.

But the love apparently soured in August 2012, when Moreira told the student that she was traveling to Guatemala to visit a sick relative. She called him once, but then cut contact for more than two weeks, the report says.

The student also told investigators that he later learned through Moreira's Facebook page that she was married.

Investigators who reviewed records found that Moreira called the student more than 2,000 times from a cellphone and a home line between November 2010 and Oct. 12, 2012, the report says.

The report, completed on May 31 and obtained by DNAinfo New York through a Freedom of Information Law request, states that investigators could not locate Moreira to speak to her.

Moreira started working for the DOE in 2006 as a paraprofessional, according to the city's Department of Education. She was a substitute teacher in 2010, but was appointed as a special ed teacher in 2011, earning $57,320 a year. She resigned from her job in September 2012.

Investigators recommended that she be made ineligible to work for the DOE.

Moreira could not be reached for comment.

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