NFA trustees discuss sexual assault allegations, school’s response behind closed doors

December 7, 2018 GMT

Norwich — An attorney hired by the Norwich Free Academy board of trustees updated the board during a two hour, 20-minute closed-door meeting Thursday on “some interim results” of his investigation into the school’s quick dismissal in 2017 of reports that an assistant coach was having sexual relations with a student.

Then-assistant coach Anthony Facchini was arrested by Norwich police on Sept. 12 of this year on two counts of second-degree sexual assault for allegedly having sexual relations with two NFA student athletes in 2017 and 2018. Police are continuing the investigation, including whether NFA officials failed to report the allegations to state authorities as required by law, and said more arrests are expected.

Sarette Williams, chairwoman of the board of trustees, spoke to reporters at the start of Thursday’s meeting and following the executive session.

The board on Nov. 1 hired a Hartford attorney to conduct its independent investigation into NFA’s handling of the allegations. On Thursday, Williams identified that attorney as Matthew Curtin of Murtha Cullina.

Williams said Curtin’s investigation “has produced some interim results and he wanted to ensure the board of trustees was aware of those results.” She said the attorney’s investigation is not yet complete but the board would have the opportunity to ask questions of the attorney in the closed-door session.

NFA’s attorney Kyle McClain also attended the closed-door session.

At the end of the meeting, Williams said the NFA Corporation is paying for the investigation. In an earlier letter to NFA parents, alumni and partner districts, she had said that neither NFA tuition nor NFA Foundation funds were paying for the investigation but did not respond to questions regarding how the investigation is being funded.

“At end of investigation, we will be able to provide recommendations to Head of School David Klein that he can act on and implement as he determines are appropriate.”

Klein did not attend Thursday’s trustees meeting.

According to police arrest warrants and search and seizure warrants released Nov. 28, NFA Curriculum Director Denise Grant alerted Campus Safety Director Kevin Rodino of the first alleged relationship between Facchini and a student in April 2017.

But Rodino closed the investigation after just two days, after Facchini and the student both denied the allegations. He called the tip an “unsubstantiated” anonymous report. However, Grant told police she never intended to be anonymous.

Rodino met with Klein, then Athletic Director Eric Swallow and Director of Student Affairs John Iovino before closing the investigation. Under state law, school officials are mandatory reporters of potential abuse or neglect of minors, but none of the NFA officials reported the allegations to Norwich police or the state Department of Children and Families.

In June 2018, another NFA coach heard that Facchini was having relations with a student. The coach filed an oral report with Rodino and followed up, as required in state law, with a written report to DCF, which launched the police investigation.

In the warrants, police said Rodino refused to turn over a hard-backed notebook containing his notes on his investigation. Rodino and Assistant Campus Safety Director Kevin Bakoulis told investigating police detectives they would have to subpoena the notes.

On the day Facchini was arrested, Norwich police and members of the FBI Computer Analysis Response Team and the Connecticut State Police Computer Crimes Unit executed the search and seizure warrants on the NFA campus.

NFA fired Facchini on July 12, a month after police launched the investigation, and Swallow resigned Sept. 10, two days before Facchini was arrested.

On Wednesday, Norwich Board of Education Chairwoman Yvette Jacaruso and Superintendent Abby Dolliver co-signed a letter to Klein and Williams asking for extensive documents pertaining to the Facchini arrest and the police and NFA investigations and asking for a meeting between the Norwich board and the trustees.

Asked for a response from NFA officials to the Norwich school board’s letter, NFA spokesman Geoff Serra said the letter was received.

“The content of the letter will be reviewed carefully by the Trustees in consultation with legal counsel,” the statement said, “and NFA will respond after performing its due diligence.”