Parents should be outraged after NFA blames victim to protect its image

Based on the statements of the student and the coach, the claims of suspected (sexual) abuse were determined to be unsubstantiated, Norwich Free Academy Board of Trustees Chairwoman Sarette Williams wrote Monday in a letter sent to faculty, parents, staff and superintendents from partner districts.

"Therefore, NFA did not report the matter to DCF. Unfortunately, we now know from recently published sworn police affidavits that the accused and the former student provided false statements to NFA staff," Ms. Williams wrote in response to reports that NFA failed to contact the Department of Children and Families, upon learning of the alleged sexual relationship between former assistant track coach Anthony Facchini and a female students on campus.

Hence, the following question: Is there a more heinous example of institutional image protection in the history of the universe?

Norwich Free Academy just blamed the victim.

It nearly renders you speechless, except for all the requisite outrage such levels of arrogance and insensitivity arouse.

Norwich Free Academy has become a public embarrassment.

And an insult to the remaining good people on campus whose noteworthy work in education gets hijacked a little worse every day by levels of administrational crudeness that's become like the Eiffel Tower: You have to admire it for its size.

NFA's benign neglect, failure to follow the law and subsequent dizzying levels of arrogance allowed Mr. Facchini, an NFA graduate, to begin another inappropriate sexual relationship with a different student.

And yet the school has chosen to blame the victim.

It's easier than acknowledging its own abject failure, apparently.

Straight up: NFA failed to follow the law. Per Connecticut General Statutes §17a-101a: "Mandated reporters are required to report or cause a report to be made when, in the ordinary course of their employment or profession, they have reasonable cause to suspect or believe that a child under the age of 18 has been abused, neglected or is placed in imminent risk of serious harm."

Hence, the law obviates the "two-day investigation" of campus administrators. Their decision to dismiss the "investigation" as unsubstantiated is irrelevant.

It was not their call.

It was DCF's call.

It was NFA's responsibility — by law — to report that which triggers "reasonable cause to suspect" and let DCF do its work.

NFA's "investigation," on its face, barely passes the laugh test. Did campus officials honestly believe Mr. Facchini or his victim would confess forthwith? Remember: This was not the victim coming forward with something to report.

Such rumors do not begin without enough suspicion to warrant a call to DCF. If DCF investigates and finds nothing, then the issue is dead. But only until DCF — not NFA — says no.

NFA's investigation found nothing because that was the goal. Protect Mr. Facchini, our NFA grad. Protect our image. After all, we are "The Academy."

The vaunted "Academy."

The vaunted "Academy" with the audacity to blame the victim, fully aware that its own benign neglect produced another victim.

Ms. Williams also advises in her letter that NFA would conduct an "independent investigation," but would keep the identity of law firm confidential.

And we would trust the findings of this investigation ... why?

Because NFA has been such a beacon of transparency so far?

This independent investigation — while perhaps moving faster than the Norwich police department's dawdling that by comparison makes the tortoise look like Jesse Owens chasing the hare — will "uncover" exactly what NFA wants it to uncover.

Mr. Facchini will be misunderstood by two poor misguided youths, while all the administrative Sgt. Schultzs — they know nothing, they hear nothing, they see nothing — will be up for the Nobel Prize. It'll be sure to uncover a handpicked scapegoat or two as well. Because that's just how they roll at "The Academy."

Are there any NFA parents out there who are outraged by this?

Parents of girls who wonder whether their daughters are truly safe on campus?

Parents who wonder why the officials who failed to report to DCF are still in their offices and not on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation?

You need to be heard.

And you need to be heard now.

Because some NFA administrators and the Board of Trustees, in whose hands you ultimately place the safety and welfare of your children, have chosen to blame the victim.


This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

Editor's Note: Our policy is to not allow comments on any story about sexual assault.

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