BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Devastated, that's what some City Honors parents in Buffalo are feeling after learning that a teacher is now charged with sexual exploitation of a child and possession of child pornography.
Investigators say 59-year-old Peter Hingston of Amherst used a Go-Pro camera to record female students in his class. 7 Eyewitness News senior reporter Eileen Buckley spoke with some parents and the Buffalo Public School District.
“I mean it's just devastating. It's devastating,” said Jeremy Toth, City Honors parent,
Toth’s son is a freshman at the school and took a tech class with Hingston.
“I talked to him and you know he's pretty shook up about it and he did tell me that there had always been short of jokes around the school you know – but no one took it seriously,” Toth explained.
But the city school district tells 7 Eyewitness News one student did step forward several months ago. That's when the FBI began an investigation. In the federal compliant it alleges how some female students were recorded as the teacher exposed himself, while conducting extremely inappropriate behavior and then used the images of the victims in a sexual manner.
Last June the city school district placed Hingston on administrative leave.
“How worried are you – as a parent - that your daughter could possibly end up appearing on a video or photo that he captured?” asked Buckley.
“I'm sick to my stomach about it – I’ve been sick about it since I found out in June what was going on – to some extent – and as more information comes out – it becomes more and more concerning,” responded Kelly Hall, City Honor parent.
Hall says she also spoke with the FBI this summer and is critical of the district for not notifying parents last spring, about the seriousness of the allegations.
The district tells us when there’s a federal investigation involved - the law says it can't publicly say anything about the case.
“That is the unfortunate part of it from the parent’s perspective. I understand where they are coming from, but once the complaint was levied, the individual was put on administrative leave it was immediately turned over to the proper authorities to investigate the matter and the FBI was investigating this,” stated Nathaniel Kuzma, legal counsel, Buffalo Public Schools.
Kuzma also pointed out the student who initially came forward should great “courage”.
“The very critical point of all of this is if you know something - you say something because that will trigger this process, students will be protected and the process will work at the end of the day and it worked in this case,” Kuzma noted.
The teacher was at the school for about a decade, so there is much concern about how many students could be alleged victims.
“He was there a long time A lot of students went through his classes. A lot of students really liked him. And it’s not just current students it’s recent grads, older grads, my older son is in college – I sent him all the news. He had Mr. Hingston in 7th grade. He said he was unaware of any behavior that was creepy or uncomfortable, but ever parent of every graduate and ever current student is having these conversations right now,” remarked Toth.
“These kids treated this situation with the teacher as though it was their daily normal. They were so use to him and how he was in class. They didn’t treat it as a problem, but having conversations with my daughter in June, I realized at that point that things had been going on that might have been inappropriate,” Hall explained.
The principal of City Honors, William Kresse, issued a letter to parents this week and delivered a public announcement to students Friday morning.
“Many of you feel betrayed at this moment,” read part of the announcement.
Extra counseling is now being provided at the school.
One parent who didn't want to be identified told us her daughter said the teacher in question always stood "uncomfortably close" and she hopes to "God there are no photos of her daughter".