Kent Franks, a 39 year old Locust Valley Elementary School gym teacher, was arrested and accused of repeatedly sexually abusing seven young girls from September 1999 to November 2001. Franks has taught kindergartners through second-graders at the Ann MacArthur School on Reyfield Road for the past seven years. He surrendered to special victims detective in Bellmore after a 2 1/2 month investigation. He is accused of setting up games during which he would either trick the girls into touching him inappropriately, or casually place their hands on his private areas. Det. Sgt. Richard Zito, commanding officer of the special victims squad said, It was always a touching and it was always over clothing. One of the games was called monster ball. During this game students would choose partners and if there was an odd number of students in the class, Franks would join in. He would partner up with a girl, always a girl, Zito said. Then Franks would play keep away with a bean bag or a small ball, moving it in front of his private area until the last moment so that the girls would reach for it and touch him inappropriately, he said. Franks, of 104 Marlboro Road, Valley Stream, pleaded not guilty to a nine-count indictment in a Mineola courtroom packed with parents. Nassau County Court Judge Joseph Calabrese issued 18 orders of protections, one for each child, ages 6 to 8, and their parents, and ordered him to stay away from them. Franks, was initially accused by seven girls, is charged with nine felony counts of second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child, a charge levied when sexual abuse is said to occur during a period of at least three months and on at least two occasions.

Two more Long Island schoolgirls pointed the finger at their former gym teacher, June 17, by testifying how he forced them to touch his genitals during class.  The 9 year olds said Franks made his moves as they played Catch and Throw.

Franks rejected a plea deal of no jail time to clear his name in court.  If that gamble failed, he could have face 63 years behind bars.

A furious mother sparked a wild courtroom outburst at Franks' trial.  Parents and relatives of nine students allegedly molested by Franks burst into thunderous cheers and applause as the mom of one of the victims slammed defense lawyers for questioning her motives in coming forward.  The bitter mom raged, If my little girl is touching someone's wiener - you're damn right I'm going to come to court about it!

Meanwhile, a veteran school secretary raced to Franks' defense, insisting that he was a kind and respectful man who wouldn't harm a fly.  She testified that he was sensitive and calm....I would trust any of my girls with him.  I have never known him to be dishonest to me.  She said he was a dedicated teacher who would never touch anybody inappropriately.

Kent thanked jurors for giving him his life back on June 27, after being cleared of sexually abusing the young girls.  Although he may have successfully battled the false accusations of child abuse that have hung over his head for two years, the stigma hasn't evaporated overnight.  He says he now dreads going back into the classroom and still fears what people think of him despite his innocence.  This has been a traumatic experience for me, he told The Post.  Going back into a room full of children is something to think about.  I don't know if I want to put myself in that position again, he said.

(New York)