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NFA trustees chairwoman invites parent questions on Facchini arrest

December 4, 2018

Norwich Free Academy Board of Trustees Chairwoman Sarette Williams on Monday invited parents and guardians to contact the academy with questions regarding the arrest of a former assistant coach for allegedly having sexual relations with two students and an ongoing police investigation into the school’s response to the allegations.

But board Chairwoman Sarette Williams said the identity of a law firm hired by the board to do an independent investigation into the allegations will remain confidential. Williams announced on Nov. 1 – prior to the Nov. 28 release of police arrest and search and seizure warrants – that the board has hired an attorney to conduct an independent investigation into how the academy handled and quickly dismissed initial reports of the alleged relationship in April 2017.

“All share an interest in a speedy resolution,” Williams wrote in the letter to parents, alumni, partner districts and posted on the NFA website, “however, time must be weighed against the need for fair, thorough, and accurate findings. No tuition dollars, nor NFA Foundation dollars have been, nor will be, used for the Trustees’ investigation into this case or to fund any other legal expenses incurred by NFA. The law firm the Board has retained has asked for anonymity so that it can focus solely on the investigation.”

Williams did not disclose how the independent investigation is being funded, and last week did not respond to that question posed by The Day.

Former assistant coach Anthony Facchini, 25, of Norwich was charged Sept. 12 with two counts of second-degree sexual assault for allegedly having sexual relations with two female NFA students. Police are continuing the investigation into whether NFA staff failed to report the alleged sexual relations to the state Department of Children and Families, as required by state law for all school staff.

According to the search warrant executed by police for computers, electronic equipment and phones on the NFA campus, NFA Curriculum Director Denise Grant first reported allegations that Facchini was having sexual relations with a student in April 2017. Campus Security Director Kevin Rodino dismissed the incident after both Facchini and the student denied the allegations and said the report was an “unsubstantiated” anonymous call.

Rodino met at the time with Head of School David Klein, Director of Student Affairs John Iovino and then-Athletic Director Eric Swallow to discuss the report. None reported the allegations to local police or DCF.

In her letter Monday, Williams wrote that the campus investigation in April 2017 “included consideration for the involved student” to be interviewed in private by a female NFA staff person.

“Based on the statements of the student and the coach, the claims of suspected abuse were determined to be unsubstantiated; therefore, NFA did not report the matter to DCF,” Williams wrote. “Unfortunately, we now know from recently published sworn police affidavits that the accused and the former student provided false statements to NFA staff.”

Williams wrote that NFA’s response to the allegations will guide the trustees and NFA administration in “a thorough review” of the school’s process for reporting suspected abuse of students to authorities.

She invited parents and guardians to express questions and concerns by email to communications@nfaschool.org.

According to the arrest warrant for Facchini, the alleged student victim, an athlete called Victim 1 in the warrant, told police she received a text message from Facchini while she was in an NFA class asking her to delete everything in her phone pertaining to him.

“The accused also told her to deny everything regarding their sexual relationship so he wouldn’t get into trouble,” the arrest warrant stated. The student deleted the messages, and the next day denied the relationship when she was questioned by Guidance Counselor Jessica St. George.

Facchini started working at NFA in December 2016 as a volunteer strength and conditioning coach. Three weeks after NFA officials dismissed the allegation of sexual relations with a student-athlete, Facchini was hired as a paid coach, his roles expanding throughout the 2017-18 school year.

According to written agreements obtained by The Day in a Freedom of Information request, Facchini was hired in May 2017 as a paid assistant track coach for 3,500, as assistant football coach in October 2017 for 3,500 and as assistant track coach in May 2018 for 11,708.

According to the arrest warrant, Facchini told police he met the second student-athlete, called Victim 2 in the police documents, in January 2017 and had sexual relations with her a year later from January to April 2018. Another NFA coach heard rumors of the alleged relations on June 8, 2018 and reported orally to Campus Safety and in writing to DCF, launching the police investigation.

Williams also in her letter responded to criticism that NFA has been “attempting to hide the truth from the public.” She wrote that the academy’s public statements have been intentionally carefully worded to protect the privacy of the students and “to preserve the confidentiality of employees’ personnel matters as required by law.”

She also wrote that NFA has “fully and voluntarily cooperated with all official inquiries from law enforcement including access to computers and cell phones, internal documents and communications, and personnel interviews.”

The search warrant application, however, described an interview on June 11 between Norwich police detectives Ryan Kelsey and Kevin Wilber and Campus Safety Director Rodino at the Campus Safety office. Rodino referred to hand-written notes kept in a green hardback notebook. Wilber and Kelsey requested the notes and were told by Rodino and Assistant Campus Safety Director Stephany Bakoulis – a retired Norwich police officer – that they would require a subpoena.

The warrant later stated that in response to police requests for documents from the academy, Rodino’s notebook was not provided, and NFA redacted the names of students involved.

c.bessette@theday.com

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