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Former Va. teacher sentenced to more than four years for illicit filming of students

A former Herndon High School student recalled in her testimony Friday a seemingly touching moment in drama class, when then-teacher Raphael Schklowsky went around a circle complimenting each student to start the week.

When the teacher got to her, the woman told a courtroom, Schklowsky said she was perfect in so many ways and broke down in tears.

Such tenderness only added to the shock of betrayal and sense of violation when she learned Schklowsky had been surreptitiously taking lewd photos of her and other students, as well as filming them as they undressed in a changing room during a production he directed.

The woman was still trying to reconcile the public and private personas of the 38-year-old teacher during a sentencing hearing for Schklowsky in a Fairfax County courtroom. The Washington Post generally does not name victims of sex crimes.

“Were those sincere compliments?” the woman asked during her testimony. “Am I really good in so many ways? I will probably never get an answer to that.”

Afterward, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge David A. Oblon sentenced Schklowsky to more than four years in prison for five convictions related to illicit filming of students and an adult au pair living in his home, as well as possession of child pornography.

Fairfax County prosecutor Robert Bezilla called Schklowsky’s crimes “horrific” in court and said the former educator had admitted to making hundreds of surreptitious photos and videos of people beginning at the age of 21. The period spanned his time at Herndon High School and a stint as a middle school teacher in New York City.

One teacher 8,000 lewd images: No place is safe from hidden cameras

Authorities said he shot upskirt and down blouse videos of Herndon students, sometimes even as he taught class. They were able to positively identify 10 victims at the high School, but others could not be identified. Authorities said they found three changing room videos on Schklowky’s iPhone. The activity spanned May 2017 to June 2018.

Bezilla told Oblon that Schklowsky had put himself in position of trust as a teacher, so he could carry out his crimes. The prosecutor said Schklowsky was motivated by sexual gratification “fueled by fantasies.”

“This life is a feint,” Bezilla said of Schklowsky’s teaching career. “He is a predator.”

But Schklowsky’s attorney Edward Ungvarsky said his client was truly remorseful. He pointed out Schklowsky pleaded guilty to his crimes in May and cooperated with authorities during the investigation. Ungvarsky said Schklowsky had attended 900 counseling sessions and he had worked tirelessly on his rehabilitation.

Raphael Schklowsky pleads guilty to taking lewd images of students

A number of people submitted letters to the court on Schklowsky’s behalf including his wife, who has remained married to him. The couple have two young girls.

Before his sentencing, Schklowsky rose and addressed the court in a blue blazer and white N95 mask. At times, his voice wavered as he described the hurt he had caused his students and his family.

“I feel horrible for what I did,” Schklowsky said. “I violated the trust of my students. Not a day goes by when I don’t feel genuine pain and disgust for my acts.”

Schklowsky’s crimes came to light after an au pair living in his Reston home discovered a camera in a vent in her room, Bezilla said. She went to authorities and a search of Schklowsky’s home turned up devices with more than 8,000 lewd images, including the pictures and videos of the Herndon High School students, Bezilla said. Images of child pornography downloaded from the Internet were found on a hard drive.

The single victim who testified in court Friday described the unsettling and surreal experience of Fairfax County detectives coming to her home and asking her to help identify the lewd images of herself and other students.

After news broke of Schklowsky’s arrest, she recalled how alienating it was to go on Instagram and see fellow students joking about Schklowsky and circulating memes about what happened. There were uncomfortable questions from adults, too.

The woman testified it was also infuriating that others seemed to dismiss the incidents because no physical abuse had occurred. She said the effects of being victimized were likely to linger.

“He still has a grip on our lives,” the woman testified.

In court, Bezilla read from an impact statement of another victim who was still trying to come to grips with what Schklowsky had done. “I literally lost all trust in men,” Bezilla said the statement read.

Bezilla asked for a maximum sentence of 37 years in prison, while Ungvarsky advocated for suspended time. In his sentencing, Oblon said experts had found Schklowsky suffered from a sex addiction.

Oblon said the former teacher appeared to understand the gravity of his crimes and was working to improve himself, but demonstrated a “toxic combination” of filming underage girls while in a position of authority over them.

Oblon said he was also persuaded Schklowsky needed prison time by the lengths he went to record students.

“The degree of planning is absolutely extraordinary,” Oblon said.

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