A 15-year-old Newtown High School sophomore appeared before the Board of Education for a second time in five weeks to complain of an alleged culture of bullying on the boys’ basketball team and alleged retaliation by the coaching staff against those who report bullying incidents.
At the , Angel L. Santos III asked about the status of an investigation into his allegations, which he first reported at a special board meeting on February 28.
“Since our last meeting nothing has been resolved. I am here to ask you a series of questions which I would like to have answered in a timely manner,” Santos said to board members, Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson, and Assistant Superintendent Linda A. Gejda.
“Where does my investigation stand? What is your resolution and how will it be enforced?” he asked. “I expect the administration to protect my rights as a member of this community and a student of … It almost seems that the administration is waiting till someone gets hurt before this is take seriously,” Santos said.
Griselle Santos, Angel’s mother, expressed concern that their original complaint about bullying was omitted from the special meeting’s minutes, that her son was forced to wait for more than two hours to address the board in the second public portion of the April 3 meeting, which was a school night, and that no action has been taken on the allegations.
“I want no further retaliation (against) my son … I want you to advocate for Angel,” said Griselle Santos, who also called for the removal of the high school’s coaches, “all of them,” she said. “I will fight for my son until my last breath,” she told education officials.
According to Angel Santos, he went from being in the starting line-up of the basketball team to number 8 on the bench after he went to coaches to report the students who were allegedly verbally and physically abusing him.
This was not the first time bullying was alleged in the high school sports program. Newtown resident Joe DeVellis said the issue was brought to a previous superintendent and principal several years ago by a parents’ organization with which he was involved. Alice Mascher, another resident, said she complained a year ago about alleged bullying experienced by her son who she claimed was benched for four years and is now a starter for his college team.
If education officials put a stop to it a year ago, “We would not be standing here with the Santos family. We wanted to stop the bullying and they wouldn’t believe us,” Mascher said.
“There is truth behind what you’re hearing,” said John Scharfenberg, who added that his son is no longer a student at Newtown High School after he was the victim of alleged bullying by the same individuals.
After the meeting BOE Chairman Debbie Leidlein asked Angel Santos to e-mail his prepared remarks to her, but stopped short of agreeing to investigate the matter, at least for the time being.
“The board will address the cases as they are brought before us after they’ve gone through the appropriate channels,” and that means it must go through the administration first, she said, speaking in general.
Superintendent Robinson did not return calls requesting comment.