Nov. 22, 2019 By Allie Griffin
A former Long Island City High School teacher inappropriately texted female students, boosted failing grades, gave students money, gifts, alcohol and slept with one student, according to a new city investigation.
Math teacher Peter Muhlbach, 53, of Woodside, engaged in inappropriate behavior with several female students dating back to at least 2014, according to a report by the Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI) released Thursday.
In January 2015, Muhlbach began a sexual relationship with a student and supplied her with alcohol and various drugs, according to the report. The student, now 24, moved into Mulbach’s apartment after graduation, she told investigators.
Muhlbach supported the former student financially throughout the course of their relationship. He gave her free use of his car and a credit card. She recently ended their relationship after learning her former teacher was hiding her mail and was moving to Florida, according to the report.
All the while, Muhlbach continued to prey on teenage students at Long Island City High School, engaging in flirty behavior, offering them money and gifts and asking them to meet for drinks outside of school.
Commissioner Anastasia Coleman began the investigation in December 2018 when the office received an anonymous complaint that Muhlbach had an inappropriate relationship with a female student and that there were photos on social media of the pair together at a bar.
Two months later, Assistant Principal Maria Argyris alerted SCI that parents of a 15-year-old student found inappropriate text messages with the math teacher on her phone.
In text exchanges, Muhlbach called the 15-year-old “mi amor” and said that he missed her and wanted her to visit him in Florida.
Allegations against Muhlbach continued to pour in over the course of SCI’s investigation.
Students told investigators that their teacher give them gifts and money for their birthdays — $50 in one case — or when they did well on tests.
They said Muhlbach commented on a 17-year-old student’s provocative picture on social media with the heart eyes emoji and that his Facebook timeline was “full of photos” of himself with current and former students.
Several students who spoke with investigators corroborated that their teacher texted many of his female students, often in a flirtatious way. SCI obtained Muhlbach’s phone records and found thousands of exchanges between three female students in particular, including the student he lived with.
One student told investigators her teacher’s flirty behavior made her feel uncomfortable. She said Muhlbach called her “his wife” in front of the class and gave her a stuffed baby flamingo from Florida for her birthday. The 18-year-old said Muhlbach openly told students who were about to graduate that they could go out for drinks together after graduation.
The parents of the 15-year-old student who found their daughter’s texts with her teacher were also concerned Muhlbach was altering her grades in his class. They told investigators all her grades were consistently low except in Muhlbach’s class in which she averaged a 90 despite numerous absences.
“If you were pretty and a girl, Muhlbach would offer to give you ‘whatever grade’ you wanted,” the 18-year-old student told investigators. She said she asked for a 90 and received a 100, despite her own belief that she was “failing miserably,” got a 35 out of 100 on her math Regents exam and amassed 30 absences during the school year.
Muhlbach was reassigned to a central office in May and a problem code was attached to his record. He subsequently resigned from the DOE on September 1, according to the report.
The SCI recommended that the problem code attached to Muhlbach’s personnel record be made permanent to prohibit him from future employment with the DOE or any of its vendors in the report.
“These were deeply disturbing allegations, and this teacher is no longer a DOE employee,” DOE spokesperson Danielle Filson said. “He was removed from the classroom and away from students during the investigation.”