NFA fired ex-coach in July as police investigated alleged sexual assault

Norwich — Norwich Free Academy fired former assistant coach Anthony Facchini on July 12, weeks after Norwich police launched an investigation into allegations he had inappropriate relations with one or more students, according to documents provided to The Day through a Freedom of Information request.

“This correspondence provides notice that effective on the date of this letter, your employment by Norwich Free Academy has been terminated,” NFA Head of School David Klein wrote in a one-sentence July 12 letter to Facchini.

Police on Wednesday arrested Facchini, 25, of 210 Broadway, Norwich, on two counts of second-degree sexual assault. He was released on a $75,000 bond and is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 20 in Norwich Superior Court. Police, with assistance from the FBI Computer Analysis Response Team and the state police Computer Crimes Unit, executed a search and seizure warrant on the NFA campus Wednesday afternoon.

In the news release announcing the arrest Wednesday, police said they have been investigating a report made to the state Department of Children and Families in June and learned that Facchini allegedly had sexual relations with two NFA students beginning in 2017 while he was on staff at the academy.

The arrest warrant is sealed, typically for 14 days, as police say they continue to investigate. But police Detective Lt. Chris Conley said Thursday police might request the seal “may be continued if the investigation is not complete by then.”

The termination letter, a copy of which was sent to NFA's law firm, did not specify reasons for the termination. NFA provided no documentation revealing the reasons for the termination. According to a series of one-page contracts provided by NFA, Facchini was first hired as an assistant track coach for the spring 2017 season for $750. In the 2017-18 school year, he was hired as the strength and conditioning coach for $3,500, assistant football coach for $1,350, winter indoor track assistant coach for $3,500 and spring 2018 assistant track coach for $2,408.

A spreadsheet summarizing his total compensation showed his total gross pay at NFA to be $11,708.

Along with the employment records, NFA provided The Day with a copy of a Connecticut state Department of Education Continuing Education Unit document certifying that Facchini had completed a “Coaching Competencies Certification Course Mod. 15” dated Dec. 7, 2016, which awarded him three continuing education credits. NFA also provided two certificates stating Facchini had completed adult first aid/CPR and AED training, one dated Aug. 19, 2014, and the other Dec. 5, 2016, each good for two years.

On Monday, former NFA Athletic Director Eric Swallow resigned but school officials would not say whether his departure was related to the police investigation.

In response to several questions posed by The Day, NFA officials said Thursday they could not comment on the ongoing investigation and released a written statement from Klein.

“Norwich Free Academy appreciates the thorough on-going work of the Norwich Police Department which resulted in the arrest of an individual yesterday — an ex-seasonal coach, terminated from his position, July 12, 2018,” the statement said. “NFA does not tolerate inappropriate staff behavior, on or off campus. Because this is an on-going police matter, we are limited in our response. To the best of our ability, we will inform our school community as this situation continues to unfold.”

Klein also sent a statement to parents in an email Wednesday afternoon, which included an invitation to Wednesday evening’s parents’ night activities on campus, when parents follow their children’s calls schedule, meet teachers and learn about school year activities.

“You may have read in the media about the arrest of an individual yesterday — an ex-seasonal coach, who was terminated from his position at NFA, July 12, 2018. We appreciate the Norwich Police Department’s thorough, on-going work. Because this is an open police matter, we are limited in the information that we can share at this time. We will let the police do their job, while we stay focused on ours — providing a high school experience for our students, second to none.”

Approached before going into the parents' night event, several parents said they don't have concerns for their children's safety and feel that the school has been appropriately communicative.

"I have no concerns," said Crystal Piolunek, parent of a freshman. "I honestly trust the school to make the right decision."

Dan Ruta, whose son is a sophomore, said he wasn't that surprised by the news "because it's a different world than when I went to school." Saying that we don't live in a perfect world, he feels that students dressing inappropriately, according to the dress code, is part of the problem.

Ruta still is waiting to find out the facts but said that anything that happens is "in no way, shape or form" NFA's fault. He said he feels safer at the school than anywhere in Norwich.

DCF spokesman Gary Kleeblatt said Thursday that child protection records are not public records under state law, and he could not comment on specifics of the investigation, including the report made to the department and information developed during the investigation.

DCF is not the criminal justice agency, Kleeblatt said, but works with police and assists schools to conduct investigations and disclose to school administrators and police the information discovered. If the school did not report alleged abuse, DCF officials notify local police, Kleeblatt said.

NFA’s Abuse and Neglect policy, posted on the academy website, describes the requirement that suspected child abuse be reported and investigated by “a social agency/local police” and that services be provided to families where needed.

The policy requires all academy employees to report suspected abuse or neglect of a student and outlines the procedures to be followed, including an oral report of suspected abuse to be made to DCF or law enforcement agency within 24 hours “of reasonably suspecting or believing that a child has been abused or is in danger of being abused.” A written report is required immediately following the oral report, the policy states.

“All personnel shall cooperate fully with the investigation of suspected abuse or neglect by the Department of Children and Families, a law enforcement agency, and/or the Office of Protection and Advocacy (for persons with disabilities), and with all court proceedings involving suspected abuse or neglect,” the policy states.

Day Staff Writer Erica Moser contributed to this report.

c.bessette@theday.com

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