Wojtas' work recognized by regional press group
The Day has received the New England First Amendment Award, presented this week by the New England Newspaper & Press Association at its virtual fall conference.
The award recognizes a New England newspaper for its "exceptional work in upholding the First Amendment and educating the public about it." The Day shared the award with the Concord (N.H.) Monitor.
The Day's award was the result of an investigation by Staff Writer Joe Wojtas into allegations that a teacher at Stonington High School had been allowed to resign after years of allegations of improper conduct with female students and athletes. In reporting on the story, Wojtas filed numerous Freedom of Information requests with the school district and, when denied access, filed complaints with the state's FOI Commission. In one ruling, the commission ordered release of the student complaint that led to the resignation of Timothy Chokas.
The judge commended both newspapers for "their exhaustive and revealing reporting on the failures of school districts to deal with abusive teachers. Without the newspapers' doggedness, and pursuit of the truth that education officials tried to thwart at every turn, bad men could still be hurting school girls. The newspapers' efforts exposed flawed educational systems where sick actors are protected and innocent students are harmed. In the Concord case, The Monitor's reporting resulted in significant changes to the way the school district holds faculty accountable. The Day's coverage has prompted both state and independent investigations and a review and update of the school system's sexual harassment policies. A truly bravo performance by both newspapers!"
In addition, NENPA recognized The Day's weekday edition as a Distinguished Newspaper in its circulation category.
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