Police: WMHS gym teacher bribed female student for nude videos
By Charles Kim WEST MILFORD – High School Physical Education teacher Christopher Shenise, 32, is facing charges of trying to bribe a 17-year-old female student into giving him nude videos, police said Feb. 8. Police arrested Shenise, of Vernon, at his home last Friday following a 3-month investigation by West Milford Police and the Special Victims Unit of the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, officials said. According to police, Shenise offered money to the minor victim to send him nude videos while she was a student at the high school in November. School Superintendent Dr. Alex Anemone said Monday that a district employee learned of the alleged inappropriate behavior and brought it to the attention of administrators, who then contacted police. “Shenise was suspended with pay on Nov. 20, 2018,” Anemone said in an email Monday. “The district cannot comment further on personnel matters.” Shenise was charged with one count of endangering the welfare of a child in the second degree, one count of official misconduct in the third degree, and one count of abuse, cruelty and neglect in the fourth degree, police said. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and would have to register under Megan’s Law for sexual offenders for the rest of his life, according to the prosecutor’s office. He was taken to the Passaic County Jail pending a court hearing scheduled for last Saturday. According to public records, Shenise earned $56,120 per year as a gym teacher for the high school in 2017. Last June, the Board of Education unanimously voted to approve him as an assistant coach for the boys volleyball team with a stipend of $5,103 and as head coach for the girls fencing team with a stipend of $5,874, according to minutes of the June meeting. "I can"t really comment on it because it's a personnel issue", Board President Linda VanDyk said in an email on Monday. She said that other school board members "shouldn't be commenting because personnel is a confidential issue that legally, we're not allowed to comment on. (The alleged incident) came to the administration and we contacted the police department." Public records said that Shenise was a 2004 graduate of Vernon Township High School and a 2012 graduate of Montclair State University. He was approved as a substitute teacher in the South Orange-Maplewood school district for the 2012-13 school year, board minutes from that district show. He married a female alumni of Vernon Township High School in September, 2013, according to a published wedding notice. In November, police confirmed that a teacher at the high school was being investigated for “inappropriate behavior,” but did not identify them at the time, citing the ongoing investigation. They did, however, confirm that a minor student at the school was interviewed by police and detectives from the prosecutor’s office with her parents present. When the news of the investigation initially broke, parents took to social media with rumors and speculation about the case. Several parents claimed their children were questioned by school officials without them being notified. Anemone said at the time that the district would not question students without notifying parents first, and would give them the opportunity to be present during such interviews. Police said the investigation was conducted by Juvenile Detective Donald Fantasia of the West Milford Police Department and the Special Victims Unit from the county. Fantasia is the lead detective on the case and police are asking for anybody with further information to contact him at (973) 728-2808 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Coorespondent Patricia Keller contributed to this report.