Posh Manhattan Preschool Shaken Up by Messy Sex Abuse Allegations

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Photo: Andrew Theodorakis/NY Daily News via Getty Images

A 22-year-old Danish teaching student arrested last month on the suspicion of sexually abusing 13 children is at the center of a ugly dispute that's turned Midtown's International Preschools into a battleground between parents, administrators, police, and prosecutors.

The saga began in February when Malthe Thomsen started an internship at the school's 45th Street branch. He was well-liked and highly regarded, the New York Times reports, until Mariangela Kefalas, an assistant teacher, reported to superiors that Thomsen was displaying "peculiar behavior," including "inappropriate touching of children." 

Kefalas recorded Thomsen hugging the 4- and 5-year-olds in his class and letting them play on his lap. The school launched an internal investigation that included observations and interviews, eventually concluding that there was nothing to the allegations. Kefalas was fired soon after for insubordination when she refused to turn over further evidence she said proved Thomsen's guilt.

Thomsen, meanwhile, remained at work. But in June, police came calling and, after confessing, he was arrested. Parents reacted in horror, with some of them hiring lawyers to look into the situation.

Thomsen has since recanted his confession. His lawyers say police were deceptive in their interrogation, lying about videos that showed him abusing kids. In his statement given to police and reviewed by the Times, Thomsen says he would put the children's hands on his groin during play time. "I recognize that it's an absolutely disgusting thing," he said. "I am not myself sure about why I would do such a thing."

Thomsen is currently staying in Manhattan with his parents as prosecutors gather evidence. Meanwhile, the Danish media has picked up on the story and, according to the Times, is focusing "on the harsh conditions at Rikers Island, where Mr. Thomsen had been held."