An employee of the Suffield Public Schools has been arrested in Massachusetts on child pornography charges.
Gardner Whitney, 61, of Westfield, MA, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Westfield District Court, and is being held in lieu of $25,000 cash bail.
He is charged with four counts of possession of child pornography, three counts of posing a child in the nude, three counts of secretly recording a nude person and a single count of indecent assault and battery.
First Assistant Hampden County District Attorney Jennifer Fitzgerald told masslive.com the case involved multiple young victims.
The district attorney's office said Whitney is employed at Suffield Middle School, and is the former head of the Melha Shriners in Springfield, according to WWLP-TV.
In a letter to parents and guardians Friday morning, Suffield Superintendent of Schools Karen Baldwin did not identify Whitney by name or disclose which school he works at.
"I received notification on January 23, 2013, from the Suffield Police Department, that a non-certified employee of the Suffield Public Schools was arrested on January 22, 2013 by Massachusetts State Police for possession of child pornography on equipment unrelated to school," Baldwin said in the letter. "In accordance with its standard procedures, the District immediately began to work collaboratively with the police to investigate this allegation. The District will review the police reports and any further proceedings in this action to determine what, if any, further action should be taken by the Suffield Public Schools. As this is an ongoing investigation at this point, it would not be appropriate to comment further. However, please be assured that, as always, the safety and welfare of all of our students is our first priority."
Whitney is scheduled for a pretrial hearing on Feb. 22.
A release issued Friday afternoon by the Melha Shriners said:
"We are saddened and deeply disappointed by the allegations facing former Melha Shriner Potentate, Gardner Whitney. Our thoughts and prayers are with the alleged victims during this difficult time. We expect our members to be professional, moral and ethical in all of their interactions with children, colleagues and community members. We will not tolerate any conduct that is inappropriate and unbecoming of a Melha Shriner. We will take corrective action and all disciplinary measures under organization by-laws whenever there is evidence of any misconduct. We encourage members of the Melha Shriners and the community to support each other through this difficult time, and look to a more positive tomorrow."