SPRINGFIELD — A teacher at STEM Middle Academy was charged with aggravated statutory rape and related crimes for the alleged repeated assaults of a student in a closet at the school.
Robert Gayle Sr. was arraigned in Springfield District Court on Tuesday after being arrested on Friday, according to Springfield Police Department spokesman Ryan Walsh.
Judge Kevin V. Maltby ordered Gayle held on $200,000 cash bail over the objections of Gayle’s attorney.
Gayle, 60, is charged with four counts of aggravated statutory rape of a child, three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or over, and two counts of aggravated indecent assault and battery on a person under 14. There is only one alleged victim in the case, a prosecutor said.
Gayle pleaded not guilty to the charges and denies the accusations, defense attorney Trevor Maloney told the judge. Gayle’s wife of 43 years came to show her support in the courtroom, Maloney said.
Assistant Hampden District Attorney Clarissa Wright told the judge that the girl reported to investigators that Gayle would summon her to his classroom, pull her close and kiss her neck. She came home earlier this year with marks on her neck, Wright said.
“Mom had noticed some situations with this defendant contacting the named victim, and the mother blocked his number. But this didn’t stop this defendant from continuing his assaults,” Wright said.
STEM Middle Academy, on Alton Street, focuses on science, technology, engineering and math, and serves students in sixth through eighth grades, according to its website. A spokeswoman for the Springfield Public Schools has not responded to a request for comment on the matter or the status of Gayle’s employment. However, his name no longer appears in the staff directory on the site.
Investigators say the alleged abuse began in 2021, and the police investigation led by Capt. Trent C. Duda and Sgt. Karen Simmons of the Special Victims Unit began earlier this year.
Maloney said Gayle is a former U.S. Navy member who has post-traumatic stress disorder related to his service in combat zones. He worked in the telecommunications industry before becoming a teacher in 2014, Maloney said. Gayle intended to retire from the school system in January, his lawyer added.
Maloney argued for $20,000 bail, a potential GPS monitor and other restrictions.
“Given his family support and his high bail going forward, he can follow these conditions,” he said.
According to court records, Gayle also was charged in 1997 with indecent assault on a child under the age of 14 but was acquitted of those charges. Additional details attached to that case were not immediately available.
A pretrial conference is set for June 27.