At most high schools, there are usually 1 or 2 teachers that stand out as the students’ favorites. Sometimes it’s because they give in easily or are a little bit lax when it comes to discipline. Other times, it’s because they are easy for the students to talk to and willing to help with their problems.
One high school teacher did his best to be as approachable and helpful to students as possible. While it may have seemed like he was just a great teacher and a nice guy, a single Snapchat message would reveal his true intentions…
Over the 5 years that he worked at Brooklyn Technical High School, Mr. Shaynak developed a reputation as one of the favorite teachers. The physics, math, and aeronautics teacher was engaged with his students and concerned about doing his best to make sure they were doing their best. What’s more, he was kinda cool.
Though he was 44, Sean Shaynak was good at relating to his high school students as if they were his peers. “He acts like a teenager,” said one of his students. “He, in essence, is a teenager in an old man’s body,” using slang such as “for realsies” and letting his students call him “ShayShay”…
Talk About Anything
But more than just adopting the slang his students used, Mr. Shaynak was there to help as best he could, with schoolwork or anything else. He helped with things like talking students through a breakup or a fear of dying. He also had a lot of cool stories to tell from his days as a pilot.
Shaynak began studying to be a pilot on the side as he was attending the University of Richmond in Virginia. He then transferred to New York University for a year before leaving school to teach at a flight school in Chicago for three years. Eventually, he moved back to New York, joining SUNY Farmingdale’s professional pilot program and earning his bachelor’s degree…
Just after graduating, Mr. Shaynak was hired as a pilot by ExpressJet. After a couple of years, he became a “check airman.” A check airman had the prestigious job of making sure all new pilots did everything right. It was during this time that he met the mother of his child.
Making a Family
She was working as a flight attendant at ExpressJet, fresh out of high school and 13 years younger than him. They had a daughter together just over a year after they met and the woman would eventually move in with Shaynak when he bought a home in Maryland.
Unfortunately, the happy family wasn’t to be. Shaynak and the mother of his daughter never married and she moved out of their home just a year and a half after she moved in. Shaynak also grew unsatisfied with his position at ExpressJet and, following the pattern of his life so far, he started looking for something new.
A Different Opportunity
Dissatisfied with his long commute and his “layover life,” Shaynak wanted out of commercial piloting. According to one of his neighbors, “He found out that he could take his qualifications and go into a teaching position that would be more stable.” It seemed that in accepting the position at Brooklyn Tech, Mr. Shaynak had finally settled into a permanent life. But the same things that made him popular with students would begin to unravel his life…
Mr. Shaynak liked interacting with his students but seemed conflicted about where to draw the line with them. He would sometimes show up to student’s parties and other times tell students that attending their parties would be a bad idea. He would befriend some kids on Facebook while telling others it was inappropriate.
Whatever his reservations, Mr. Shaynak stayed close to the line when it came to his interactions with students. He would let students use his classroom as a place to cut class or meet up with other friends. He was also regularly seen smoking cigarettes outside the school with students…
Whispers in the Hallways
It was perhaps because of his unusual closeness with some of his students that rumors began to swirl around Mr. Shaynak. Though no one had any specific knowledge or proof of it, some students began to gossip that there was inappropriate contact going on between Mr. Shaynak and various female students.
Just How He Is
But for every person that believed Mr. Shaynak was up to no good, there was another student to defend him, saying that the way he acted was just his personality and that there was nothing going on. One student even said “he’s very good at passing off inappropriate things as being appropriate.” But when one female student received an image on her phone, there would be no passing it off…
In June of 2014, a 16-year-old female student at Brooklyn Tech received a message from Mr. Shaynak via Snapchat, a messaging app. When she opened the message, she was shocked to see a picture of Shaynak’s genitals accompanied by a distasteful joke. The girl told her parents about the lewd photo and her father reported it to the FBI.
No Laughing Matter
The FBI took the matter very seriously and immediately began an investigation. In August of that year, they had gathered enough evidence to arrest Shaynak and charge him with disseminating indecent material to a minor and a number of related charges. But when investigators began to dig through all of Shaynak’s digital records, they would find that he’d done a lot worse than just harassing one student…
It Goes Deeper
After arresting Shaynak, the FBI seized three of his computers and two of his phones. On them, they found thousands of text messages of inappropriate conversations with students about subjects including nude beaches and threesomes. They also found enough photographs and videos to identify six additional victims, ranging in age from 14 to 18 years old.
According to prosecutors, Shaynak had “looked to groom these students” with text messages, trips, alcohol and cigarettes. He even gave one student perfect scores on quizzes, despite the fact that she routinely left questions blank. All the gifts and favorable treatment he showed toward some female students was aimed at one thing…
Way Past the Line
Shaynak intended to heighten these inappropriate relationships until they resulted in intercourse. He took one student to a nude beach and another to a sex club across state lines. Ultimately Shaynak had intercourse with 2 of his 7 victims but with each, waited until they were 17-years-old, the legal age of consent in New York.
Slew of Charges
With the evidence they had gathered, prosecutors were able to charge Shaynak with 36 crimes including kidnapping, obscenity, endangering the welfare of a child, and sexual abuse. All in all, Shaynak had a mountain of evidence against him and was facing a possible 25-year sentence…
But prosecutors were in a bit of a tricky situation. Two of Shaynak’s victims were still emotionally attached to him and remained in contact with him even after his arrest. The other 5 were reluctant to testify, including one who simply refused to cooperate with prosecutors at all. Without any of their testimonies, it would be difficult to guarantee a conviction.
Because of that, prosecutors offered Shaynak a plea deal. He would plead guilty to 9 of the 36 charges and would be sentenced to 5 years in prison. In addition to the prison time, Shaynak was barred from having any contact with his victims and from ever teaching again. “This guilty plea spares the young victims from having to testify publicly at trial and in graphic detail,” said the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.