By Jim O’Hara and Pam Lundborg
An Onondaga Nation School teacher was accused Wednesday of sexually molesting or endangering the welfare of nearly half the female population of the Nation school.
Albert Scerbo, 44, of 7406 Liffey Lane, Clay, was indicted on 17 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, 11 counts of second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child, four counts of first-degree sexual abuse and three counts of second-degree sexual abuse in connection with incidents from Sept. 4, 2002, through Dec. 18, 2006.
The 35-count indictment accuses him of victimizing girls who ranged in age from 7 to 14 over four years. He is accused of engaging in sexual contact with 16 of the 17 girls, according to the indictment. The indictment doesn’t detail allegations of endangering involving the 17th girl.
Scerbo, a music teacher at the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school on the Onondaga Nation, was put on administrative leave following his arrest Dec. 18. At that time, Onondaga County sheriff’s detectives charged Scerbo with having sexual contact with two female pupils, ages 7 and 8, over the past two years at the school.
Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh said he has never before seen so many witnesses and victims come forward in a case like this.
“There have been other cases where we were sure there were other victims, but they didn’t come forward,” he said. “I can’t ever remember there being this many people coming forward.”
LaFayette schools Superintendent Mark Mondanaro said Wednesday that district officials were not aware of the new charges. Scerbo remains on administrative leave, he said.
After the last arrest, the district formed a crisis-intervention team to work with the students and families, Mondanaro said. As new information is revealed, the team will continue its work, he said.
District Attorney William J. Fitzpatrick said the case that began with two victims grew to 17 victims as a result of a continuing investigation by his office, the Sheriff’s Office, the Onondaga Nation and its Council of Chiefs.
Fitzpatrick saidall of the victims had been Scerbo’s pupils at one time or another and that the incidents all occurred at the school.
The district attorney said it was understandable that girls might have been afraid to come forward with allegations against a teacher, and he commended them and their parents for having the courage to do so now.