Ex-NFA student sues school over incident

Norwich - A former Norwich Free Academy student is suing the school and assistant campus safety director Kevin Rodino, saying he grabbed her, threw her to the ground and then beat her with other security officers.

The alleged incident occurred in May 2010. Former student Kalona Brown said she was attending class when she "was physically grabbed, held and forced to the ground where she was kicked, kneed and otherwise beaten and battered by members of the defendant's security personnel." The suit said Brown's clothing was ripped and her chest exposed.

As a result of the incident, the suit claims, Brown suffered an injury to her left middle finger, multiple body trauma, an arm and elbow strain, contusions and bruises to her arms, legs and body.

Brown's mother also filed as a plaintiff in the case, alleging that she has and will in the future incur "considerable expense for medical treatment of the minor plaintiff."

The suit claims that Rodino used "excessive force" in grabbing, holding and throwing her to the ground and failed to "reasonably control his emotions and conditions."

The school was cited for negligence in several ways, including failure to follow policies on disciplinary action, failure to notify police and failure to prevent harm to the student. The suit claimed that the school had "actual and/or constructive notice of the risk of harm that Kevin Rodino and/or other employees, agents or servants, presented to (Brown)."

The suit was filed in New London Superior Court in May. NFA has not yet filed a response to the claims, other than a request that Brown's attorney, Lorenzo J. Cicchiello of Norwich, revise the complaint to eliminate several claims against the academy - erroneously listed as the Norwich Board of Education in the lawsuit - in counts related to Rodino's alleged intentional and negligent actions.

Attorney Charles E. Vermette Jr. of Avon, representing both NFA and Rodino, said Monday he could not comment on the substance of the lawsuit. He said he would file his response once the revised complaint is filed.

NFA Head of School David Klein, who was not at NFA when the alleged incident occurred, said he could not comment. But Klein expressed confidence in the campus security department in a statement issued Monday. Rodino remains as assistant campus safety director.

"The civil complaint is related to a student matter dating back to May 2010," Klein said in the statement. "Given that this situation involves a former student and is the subject of pending litigation, Norwich Free Academy will not be commenting publicly. That said, we remain confident in the daily support provided to our students, faculty and staff by the NFA Campus Safety Department."

With no mention of the pending lawsuit, the NFA Board of Trustees reviewed the school's policy on the use of physical intervention with students at its Aug. 21 meeting. The board's only revision was to emphasize that parents be notified of all incidents in accordance with state law.

"While all reasonable efforts will be expended to avoid the use of physical intervention to achieve this objective, circumstances may arise that require school personnel to invoke such techniques," the policy, which dates back to Dec. 10, 1991, starts.

It goes on to list incidents in which physical intervention would be allowed, including protect the student and others from physical harm, obtain possession of a "dangerous instrument" or controlled substance in the student's possession, protect property from damage and to restrain a student to maintain order.

Physical intervention is to be used only after less restrictive measures have been tried, and must stop once the threatening situation is abated. School personnel must report the incident to administrators and to the campus safety department, which must document it according to state law, including parental notification.

c.bessette@theday.com

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