NFA head of schools cleared in coach-student sex investigation

Norwich – Norwich Free Academy Head of School David Klein was cleared of wrongdoing Monday in the Board of Trustees’ independent investigation into the academy’s quick dismissal of allegations in April 2017 that a then-assistant coach was engaging in sexual relations with a student.

The board voted unanimously following a nearly two-hour executive session Monday that Klein “did not engage in inappropriate or wrongful conduct regarding matters within the scope of the investigation.” 

The board then directed Klein to receive the findings of the independent investigation being conducted by attorney Matthew Curtin and to implement any recommendations deemed appropriate based on his review of the findings.

The coach, Anthony Facchini, 25, of Norwich was charged Sept. 12, 2018, by Norwich police with two counts of second-degree sexual assault in connection with allegations he had engaged in sexual relations with two NFA students in 2017 and 2018. While NFA officials failed to report the first allegations to the state Department of Children and Families, a second report in June 2018 was reported both to school Campus Safety officials and to DCF, prompting the police investigation and Facchini’s arrest.

Police also seized computers, electronic equipment and documents as part of their investigation and announced that more arrests were anticipated.

Following Monday’s vote by the board, Chairwoman Sarette Williams said the board’s action pertained only to Klein, the only NFA employee under the board’s direct supervision. Williams said the board accepted the internal investigation pertaining to Klein.

“The findings of fact do not implicate Mr. Klein in any wrongdoing relative to the April 2017 matter,” Williams read in a statement. “The findings further indicate that Mr. Klein’s actions have been ethical, professional and appropriate based on his interpretation of the information he had been provided.”

Williams said there is no date projected to receive attorney Curtin’s completed report, and with Klein directed to receive and act on the report, no further action by the Board of Trustees would be required.

Klein thanked the board and Williams “for their extraordinary level of due diligence and for their confidence in my leadership of Norwich Free Academy.”

Klein said he will meet soon with Curtin to be briefed regarding the outside independent investigation and those findings would determine his next steps. Klein said he was not aware of the status of the investigation, except in how it pertained to his role in the controversy.

“During this period of both the outside independent investigation as well as the external investigation at the police level, I have continued to lead this institution with focus, determination and passion,” Klein said. “I have not taken my eye off the ball for one minute.”

According to the police arrest warrant and search warrants obtained by Norwich police for NFA computers, emails and investigation documents, top NFA officials learned of the first allegations in April 2017, when Curriculum Director Denise Grant called Campus Safety Director Kevin Rodino after she learned of the allegation.

Rodino’s initial investigation report obtained by police stated that Rodino met with Klein, Director of Student Affairs John Iovino and then-Athletic Director Eric Swallow regarding the allegation. The report said the administrators asked Swallow to interview Facchini and Director of Guidance Jessica St. George to talk to the alleged student victim.

School officials quickly closed the investigation after both Facchini and the student denied they were in a sexual relationship. In the arrest warrant affidavit, Facchini told police on the eve of his meeting with Swallow, he asked the student victim to delete all communications between the two on her cellphone and to deny the relationship if questioned.

Although Rodino’s initial report stated the information was from an anonymous caller, Curriculum Director Grant told police she never intended to be anonymous and that Rodino was aware she was the one who called, and he called her back on her NFA desk phone.

According to police, Rodino’s initial report also did not indicate school officials intended to report the allegations to police or to DCF – as required by state law for all school personnel – even if Facchini had acknowledged the relationship.

“Rodino states in the initial report that it was decided, after advising Iovino, Klein and Athletic Director Eric Swallow, that Swallow would meet with Facchini regarding this matter to gain additional information,” police wrote in the search warrant affidavit. “Rodino also noted that if the allegations were found to be true, Facchini would be advised the social interaction should stop immediately.”

Swallow resigned on Sept. 10, two days before police arrested Facchini on Sept. 12. Also on Sept. 12, Norwich police, members of the FBI Computer Analysis Response Team and the state police Crimes Unit combed the NFA campus and seized computers and electronic equipment.

New London attorney Jason Burdick, who represents one of the alleged female victims, said late Monday he was not surprised at the NFA board’s conclusion and vote Monday. Burdick is conducting his own investigation into the allegations and the school’s response.

“They’re going to do the investigation in the way that clears themselves, and at the end of the day, you have these poor students who were sexually assaulted,” Burdick said Monday. “Just because their investigation clears them doesn’t mean ours will.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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