A Bellport High School history teacher and assistant football coach was charged with rape Monday, accused of engaging in a sexual relationship with an underage female student, prosecutors said.
The arrest Friday of Jonathan Elsalam, 27, of Ridge, came a day after a lawsuit was filed against him and the South Country Central School District, alleging that teachers and administrators knew Elsalam was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old student, but failed "to properly investigate and stop Elsalam's harassment."
Elsalam pleaded not guilty Monday to two counts of third-degree rape and four counts of third-degree criminal sex act, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child. Elsalam posted bail, set at $5,000 cash or $25,000 bond. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Central Islip on behalf of a student, now 17, and her mother.
School officials did not return calls seeking comment. Elsalam is next due in court on May 29. His Bay Shore attorney David Besso declined to comment.
"Many people knew and no one did anything," the girl said in a phone interview arranged through her lawyers, Jeffrey Brown and Lenard Leeds, of Carle Place. Newsday is not printing her name because she is the victim in an alleged sex crime. The girl said she is being home-schooled and is missing milestones of her senior year because she did not want to face Elsalam or taunting by her peers.
"He reassured me that everything was OK, and that there was a future between us," the girl said. "Then he broke it off and I felt like killing myself."
The complaint says Elsalam began flirting with the student in October 2011, after she was enrolled in his 11th-grade sociology class. He eventually told her he had a crush on her and in December 2011, they had sex, the complaint states. They continued a sexual relationship from January through August 2012, according to the complaint.
Peter Grossi, the school's head basketball coach, who is also named in the suit, had a personal relationship with Elsalam and asked how the history teacher's "girl" was doing, according to the complaint. Grossi declined to comment Monday.
In September 2012, two students reported the relationship between Elsalam and the girl to Grossi, according to the complaint. Even though the students wanted to inform the school's principal, Grossi said he would handle the matter "and they should not do anything further." Grossi never reported "what he was told to police or to any school administrators," the complaint states.
An assistant principal told Elsalam the girl was " 'hot' and they would exchange similar comments about her physical appearance," the complaint states.
Elsalam was removed from his classroom and coaching duties in October pending the completion of an investigation into undisclosed allegations against him, school district officials said.
With Patricia Kitchen
and Tania Lopez