Gateway Community College teacher accused of harassing student

James O'Toole (Photo: New Haven police)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — After a six-month long investigation, New Haven Police arrested 44-year-old James O’Toole for harassment. He was a remedial math teacher who taught one class a semester at Gateway Community College. He allegedly sent graphic texts and inappropriate Instagram messages to an 18-year-old student, whose identity will not be released. Special Victims Unit detectives began their investigation in November of 2016, tracing back the communications to September of 2016.

The victim claimed she kept receiving the sexually explicit messages even though she had made it clear to whomever was sending them that they were unwanted. The victim didn’t know who was sending the messages, but thought it could have been a classmate at Gateway.

Evie Guard, the Communications Director at Gateway Community College says he has been terminated an an active restraining order has been issued against him. She says he is not allowed on campus. The school is assisting New Haven Police with the investigation.

“We let the law take its course. The student and her protection is our priority and we respond accordingly so our security and police officers have known about this and we are part of the investigation,” she said.

Gateway student Vanessa Weaver says while he was not well known on the campus, she is glad he is no longer teaching.

“I feel sad for her, it’s scary. We’re just trying to get through college and get your career started and you have to deal with the teacher doing that. So unprofessional on his part,” she said.

News 8 did talk with Hamden Public Schools about James O’Toole. They say he is the math director here at the school, but he has been placed on administrative leave without prejudice because of an investigation done by the human resources department. Right now, they don’t believe any of their students, faculty or staff were involved.

Weaver says this is her first year at Gateway Community College and it has been a positive experience.

“I have never experienced that here ever. I have always had great, professional teachers. I’ve never had any kind of teacher say anything out of line, so I’m very surprised. I can’t believe it happened so close. I go here,” she said.

Four different search warrants were served as they tracked down the phone number in the Instagram accounts. Police credit one of their detectives, Detective Soto, for being relentless as he tracked the electronic path.