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Student Helps Catch Teacher Demanding Cash For Grades Senior Wore Recording Device So Officials Could Listen To Teacher Ask For Money For Passing Grade

A high school senior wore a recording device to help arrest a teacher who allegedly demanded $300 for a passing grade.

Kenneth D. Cotton, 44, was arrested on larceny and bribetaking charges Thursday night moments after the student handed him the second installment of the payoff, investigators said.

Despite his action, the student, Andres Namen, had to stay home Thursday night while his classmates graduated without him.

Namen needed to pass the course to graduate. But now his diploma languishes in the school office, awaiting a bureaucratic decision: pass, fail or try again.

Namen, 18, was attending a makeup class at night in government at Jamaica High School, a public school in Queens, so that he could graduate from St. Helena’s High School in the Bronx.

School investigators said the teacher approached the student, whose grades were shaky, in May, demanding $150 to pass the course. The student paid.

Cotton then demanded more money, and the teenager contacted school authorities, who wired him with a recording device for a meeting at the teacher’s office, investigators said.

Members of the school system’s investigative unit huddled outside in a van, recorded the conversation, then sprang to arrest Cotton. The conversation was not released.

Cotton pleaded innocent at his arraignment Friday to grand larceny by extortion, receiving a bribe, offering a false instrument for filing and official misconduct.

Schools Chancellor Ramon C. Cortines reassigned Cotton to a job away from students and ordered disciplinary proceedings “to seek Mr. Cotton’s dismissal.”

In the daytime, Cotton, a 20-year employee of the school system, teaches social studies at another high school in the Bronx.

“His wages were $62,331. It’s amazing, with that salary, that he’d be taking $150 bribes from a student,” said Rachel Bluestein, a spokeswoman for the school system’s investigation’s unit.

Tags: ethics