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Did school officials fail to protect students?

The Day wrote dozens of articles when allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior by school employees surfaced in three towns. After the allegations were revealed, questions arose on whether school officials reacted to them properly.

Two former New London middle school employees stand accused of sexual assault and a third is charged with failing to comply with mandated reporter requirements. The Day first reported disturbing details of the allegations against middle school behavioral specialist Corriche Gaskin, accused of using his position to sexually assault students as well as using his cell phone to record and share his sexual encounters with students and teachers.

The Day, scouring documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, also revealed that Gaskin and another employee charged in connection with the New London scandal had federal criminal records known about by the district at the time of their hiring.

A third employee and coach, Jevon Elmore, who is charged with having a sexual relationship with a former student, had previously been placed on leave three times prior to his arrest in May. The allegations, including one claim of physical abuse of a child, were determined to be “unfounded” by the state Department of Children and Families.

At the request of Mayor Michael Passero, State Child Advocate Sarah Eagan is investigating. She created a list of areas for potential oversight: sexual abuse prevention policies and positive school climate, ensuring adequate hiring practices, ensuring background checks are completed and ensuring a working framework for compliance with state-mandated reporter laws.

In late June, The Day broke a story that veteran Stonington High School teacher Timothy Chokas had been allowed to resign with full pay and benefits through the end of the 2018-19 school year after a student complained in January that he had inappropriately touched and made unwanted comments to a female classmate.

Reporting by The Day revealed that numerous female students dating to 2004 have said they, too, were repeatedly touched by Chokas and saw him touching others while he asked about their boyfriends and invited them to have breakfast in his classroom.

While some students and a retired police officer say they complained about Chokas to school officials, Superintendent of Schools Van Riley and high school Principal Mark Friese have said there is no record of any complaints or disciplinary action in his personnel file to release to The Day. Their comments came after other documents showed students complained about his actions and he was ordered on two occasions to come up with plans to avoid touching students and was later placed on administrative leave. Riley and Friese have also said that with the exception of the January incident, they never reported Chokas' actions to DCF.

At Norwich Free Academy, former coach Anthony Facchini on Dec. 5 pleaded no contest to one count each of risk of injury to a minor and reckless endangerment after he had been charged initially on Sept. 12, 2018, with two counts of second-degree sexual assault in connection with sexual relations with two female NFA students.

The Day culled information from affidavits released by the court that showed NFA had learned of the initial allegation against Facchini in April 2017 but quickly closed the case as unsubstantiated without having contacted DCF or the students' parents. The one-year statute of limitations had lapsed, and Norwich police were denied requests for arrest warrants on three NFA officials who had knowledge of the allegations and did not report to DCF or police, as required by state law.

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