Norwich school board seeks documents, meeting with NFA on sexual assault charges

Norwich — The Board of Education on Wednesday sent a 10-point Freedom of Information Act request to Norwich Free Academy for extensive documentation pertaining to sexual assault charges filed against a former assistant coach and the ongoing investigation into the school’s response to the allegations.

In a strongly worded letter to NFA Head of School David Klein and board of trustees Chairwoman Sarette Williams, the Norwich school board also requested that the Norwich board meet with NFA trustees to discuss their concerns and the information requested. The letter was signed by Norwich Board of Education Chairwoman Yvette Jacaruso and Superintendent Abby Dolliver, with copies sent to the state Board of Education chairman and Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell.

Jacaruso and Dolliver expressed the board’s “grave concern” regarding the sexual assault charges against former NFA assistant coach Anthony Facchini, charged Sept. 12 with two counts of second-degree sexual assault for alleged sexual relations with two students. They also wrote that the Norwich board is “alarmed” at media and police reports detailing NFA’s quick dismissal of initial allegations in April 2017 regarding the first alleged victim.

The letter stated that the Norwich board was making the extensive FOI requests after it determined that NFA “has not supplied the Board with sufficient information regarding the status of the recent police and internal investigations of Facchini and certain NFA personnel.”

The Norwich board also requested any contractual agreements, financial arrangements and invoices for an independent law firm the NFA board of trustees has hired to investigate the academy’s response to the sexual assault allegations. Williams announced on Monday that no NFA tuition funds or NFA Foundation funds were being used to pay for the independent investigator, and that the firm requested its identity be kept confidential.

If the work is being done pro bono, the Norwich board requested documents confirming the volunteer arrangement, Jacaruso wrote.

NFA spokesman Geoff Serra could not be reached for comment Wednesday night regarding the letter. The NFA board of trustees will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday in executive session to discuss the investigation.

According to police arrest warrants and search warrants for NFA computers and other electronic equipment, NFA Curriculum Director Denise Grant first reported allegations that Facchini was in a sexual relationship with a student in April 2017. NFA Campus Safety Director Kevin Rodino dismissed the allegation as “unsubstantiated” after Facchini and the student both denied the allegations.

Facchini was questioned by then-athletic Director Eric Swallow, and Guidance Counselor Jessica St. George talked to the student. Rodino met with Klein, Swallow and Director of Student Affairs John Iovino to discuss the allegations before closing the case. None of the parties reported the allegation to the state Department of Children and Families or to Norwich police.

On June 8, 2018, another coach learned of Facchini’s alleged sexual relationship with a second student and made an oral report to Campus Safety and a written report to DCF, triggering the Norwich police investigation that led to Facchini’s arrest on Sept. 12.

Norwich police said last week that additional arrests are expected as they continue to investigate NFA’s response to the allegations. In the warrants, police said they asked for documentation regarding the school’s earlier investigation but NFA failed to turn over a green hard-back notebook Rodino had used for his initial investigation, and NFA redacted the names of students involved in documents the school provided to police.

Norwich police, state FBI Computer Analysis Response Team and the Connecticut State Police Computer Crimes Unit executed the search and seizure warrants on the NFA campus Sept. 12, the day Facchini was arrested.

The Norwich school board requested NFA provide “all public documents related to the allegations pertaining to Facchini’s conduct and the investigation thereof by NFA personnel, including but not limited to emails, letters, text messages and any reports (whether interim or final) of any NFA personnel or administrators (the board understands that these records would need to have student information redacted).”

The board also requested any actions NFA has taken or policies it is considering changing regarding mandatory reporting to DCF and police when abuse of minors is alleged.

“In the event that NFA is developing a remediation plan as referenced above, the Board requests representation and the opportunity for input into the process of developing such a remediation plan,” Jacaruso and Dolliver wrote.

c.bessette@theday.com

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