Cambridge teacher arrested on child pornography charges, placed on administrative leave

Originally published April 17, 2014 in the Cambridge Chronicle.

A fifth-grade teacher at the Cambridge Public Schools was arrested Thursday, April 17, on federal charges of transporting child pornography.

A criminal complaint alleges Josh Wairi, 27, of 65 Beacon St. in Somerville, sent and received sexually explicit images of minors and admitted to taking pictures and video recordings of children on his cellphone. The affidavit does not say where the tapings occurred.

Wairi has been a teacher at the Graham & Parks School in Cambridge for nearly two years, said Superintendent Jeffrey Young, after serving for four years at the John F. Kennedy and Arthur D. Healey elementary schools in Somerville. Young called the allegations “deeply disturbing.”

“We pride ourselves in maintaining a safe and supportive environment for all of our students,” Young said at a press conference Thursday evening. “We are shocked and distressed when something of this nature occurs.”

Wairi was placed on paid administrative leave, Young said, pending his arraignment. The school district scheduled three meetings to open up conversation with the community.

According to the criminal complaint, federal postal investigators received a tip in July of 2013 alleging digital files of child pornography were being shared between Wairi’s email address and two others. The emails discussed trading images and video of young boys engaged in sexually explicit acts, according to the complaint.

Law enforcement agents were reportedly able to track down the source of the emails, leading them to Wairi’s Somerville address. Officers executed a search warrant on Thursday, April 17, and seized “several computers, cameras, video cameras, numerous external storage devices, thumb drives, multiple photo albums, and many photographs of children.”

“Additionally, there was a Disney shower curtain located in the bathroom,” the complaint reads.

Wairi reportedly admitted to “secretly videotaping and using a camera cellphone to videotape children changing in and out of clothes on more than one occasion.”

“He also admitted to setting up and hiding a video camera in a locker room in order to videotape children changing in and out of clothes,” the complaint reads. “Wairi told authorities that he committed these acts for sexual self-gratification.”

Young said there was no indication whatsoever that Wairi videotaped students at the Graham & Parks School and said the building’s only locker room facility was currently being used for storage and is kept locked. As with any school employee, Young said Wairi underwent a background and CORI check and it came up clean.

“At this point we have no specific evidence that anything happened at the school building or during the school day,” Young said, adding it would be up to the U.S. Attorney’s Office to continue investigating the allegations. “There was nothing in this individual’s background, through CORI or other reference checks that would have given us any inclining whatsoever … that would have raised a red flag.”

According to a cached profile on the Somerville Public Schools website, Wairi went to the John F. Kennedy Elementary School and Somerville High School, where he served as a peer mediator and studied at the Child Development Program. He graduated from Salem State College in 2009 and worked as a grade 5/6 teacher in the Choice Program at the Healey School.

In a statement, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtone said the alleged acts “shock our conscience,” and called for the community to rally together. Like Cambridge, the Somerville Public Schools are making counselors available and will host several forums for parents.

“It is difficult to comprehend how a seemingly functional person with no criminal record could victimize children in such a horrible way,” Curtone said. “The criminal justice system will deal with this individual. What we however must do now is come together as a community.”

Cambridge School Committee member Richard Harding called the allegations “repulsive, vile, and revolting.”

“As elected officials and leaders we are charged with protecting our students at all costs,” Harding said.

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