Authorities: Hempstead teacher sexually abused 10-year-old girl in school

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HEMPSTEAD -

An art teacher at Jackson Annex Elementary School was charged with sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl.

Investigators say 51-year-old John Joseph Finnegan Jr., of Island Park, surrendered to authorities on Friday. He was escorted out of police headquarters in handcuffs.

Police say the incident happened Jan. 3 inside a classroom during an after-school art program. They say two other girls in the class witnessed the abuse.

Prosecutors say there was another incident in December in which Finnegan exposed two girls to inappropriate behavior.

Finnegan pleaded not guilty in court.

Dana Grossblatt, Finnegan's attorney, says her client is innocent, calling him a "beloved" teacher in the district for over two decades.

As News 12 has reported, school officials sent out a letter on Jan. 9 telling parents about a teacher who was removed from the classroom after students reported inappropriate behavior.

Some parents said they were upset that the district waited four days to contact police. But acting Superintendent Regina Armstrong believes the district handled it the right way.

"There's no delay as far as the school district is concerned," Armstrong says. "As soon as we had any type of evidence to state that what was going on may have been criminal in nature, the authorities was informed and they've been involved from the onset."

Finnegan has been placed on a leave of absence.

The district and police ask any other potential victims to come forward. The Special Victims Squad can be reached at 516-573-4022.

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