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Stonington school board holds closed-door session to discuss 'Chokas matter'

Stonington — The Board of Education held a 35-minute closed-door meeting Wednesday night to discuss communications with their attorney about former high school teacher and coach Timothy Chokas.

Before the meeting, board Chairwoman Alexa Garvey declined to discuss what the board would be discussing with attorney Nick Grello beyond the agenda item, which listed an executive session discussion of “attorney-client privileged communication concerning the Chokas matter.” After the meeting, Garvey declined to answer any questions.

Superintendent of Schools Van Riley and high school Principal Mark Friese were not part of the executive session.

Meanwhile, before the meeting, school board member Jack Morehouse said he still is working on a set of questions he would like answered by school officials about the Chokas matter. He said he intends to forward those questions to Garvey.

Such communications between board members are considered public documents and subject to release under Freedom of Information law.

Earlier this year, Chokas, a longtime teacher and coach at the high school, resigned after a student complained that Chokas had inappropriately touched another female student. In exchange, school officials agreed to pay Chokas the remaining $81,000 of his salary as well as his health insurance premiums through June and not to discuss the allegations against him.

Subsequent reporting by The Day has revealed numerous female students had complained about Chokas touching them and other students dating back to at least 2013. Riley and Friese have refused to say whether they ever reported the allegations to police or state Department of Children and Families, which they are required to do under state law if they reasonably believe a student had been a victim of abuse.

The state Office of the Child Advocate is conducting a review of the school system’s actions, which it became aware of from The Day’s reporting on the Chokas issue.

On Oct. 25, a state Freedom of Information Commission attorney is slated to hold a hearing on two complaints from The Day alleging that school officials have failed to release complaints about or disciplinary actions toward Chokas that the newspaper has requested.

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