Crime & Courts

Charges: Man working at Wales School abused 7 young girls

A man who sometimes served as a substitute teacher in the Northwest Alaska village of Wales groped more than a half-dozen young girls at the local school, according to charging documents against him.

Court records Thursday showed Amos Oxereok, 43, charged with four counts of sexual abuse of a minor, as well as three counts of harassment. Alaska State Troopers arrested Oxereok Tuesday after one girl's allegations against him, in a case that came to light Aug. 22, led to other girls speaking with investigators.

Gerald Pickner, the Bering Strait School District's director of human resources, said Thursday that the district was cooperating fully with troopers' investigation of Oxereok, who had worked with the district for several years.

"He was a teacher's aide for a four-year period in Wales, then there was a one-year break in service," Pickner said. "For the past year, he has been employed as a technology specialist."

Oxereok's technology position, as one of four specialists in the district, involved maintaining district internet servers on a roving basis. Pickner said specialists also install software on school laptops and provide technical support as requested. Oxereok was based in Koyuk in that role.

According to an affidavit filed in the case by trooper Aileen Witrosky, troopers spoke with a total of seven girls aged 9 to 13; all of them reported that Oxereok had inappropriately touched their genitals, chests or buttocks on or under their clothes, often when they were at the school.

On Monday, Witrosky wrote, a report came in that Oxereok was suicidal and "talking about a one-way walk out onto the tundra."

The next day, Oxereok's wife filed a report with the state Office of Children's Services after Oxereok told her he had touched one of the girls, the charges said.

Pickner declined to say whether any other potential victims had spoken with the district or if Oxereok was still employed there, citing confidentiality restrictions. Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said Thursday that no one else had come forward to report abuse.

Troopers and Pickner said Oxereok occasionally served as a substitute teacher while working as an aide.

"Within the framework of our school district, a lot of the time if teachers are gone aides fill in as substitutes in our villages," Pickner said. "That happens frequently, based on the lack of qualified substitutes and the lack of people during times of the year such as subsistence harvest."

The district has put counselors on standby and told schools to mention that they are available, as well as alerting the Norton Sound Health Corp. in Nome to the case.

"Our first concern always and will continue to be the safety of the kids in our schools and our villages," Pickner said.

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