Board of Education responds to allegations of cover ups
DARIEN — Allegations of Board of Education cover-ups and deception, spread via email by a member of Representative Town Meeting, are “full of salacious innuendo and misinformation,” according to board Chairman Tara Ochman.
On Tuesday, Ochman addressed the emails, sent en masse to members of the Darien community by Jay Hardison in the past several months.
The emails allege various types of misconduct committed by Darien High School football coach Rob Trifone, all relating to a 2016 in-game incident in which he was suspended for striking a player’s helmet with his hand, and attempts by the Board of Education and school administrators to cover up further transgressions and failure to properly investigate.
Hardison sent the emails to past and present members of the Board of Education, school administrators, town officials, state representatives and members of the press.
“These emails, understandably, have worried those receiving them. It has been suggested that the Darien Police Department look into these matters. Should the department decide to do so, we would welcome the review, acknowledging that in some cases, it would be a re-review of the original matter,” Ochman said.
According to a Feb. 4, 2017, email obtained by Hardison through the Freedom of Information Act process, the Board of Education did contract the law firm Shipman & Goodwin as legal counsel, though it is not clear from the email in response to what they were contracted.
Hardison has repeatedly made requests through the FOIA for information surrounding Trifero’s slap, many of which have been denied on the grounds of protecting the student’s privacy. Twice the state’s FOIA Commission has ruled in favor of the Board of Education regarding Hardison’s requests. Two more requests are pending.
Hardison and Trifone could not be reached for comment before press time.
“It is our responsibility to protect the privacy rights of our students,” Ochman said. “In the numerous cases brought by Mr. Hardison to the FOIA Commission, the commission has consistently found in favor of the district on the key issue — that the district has properly withheld student records from Mr. Hardison to protect the privacy rights of the students as required by federal law.”
According to Superintendent Dan Brenner, who was presiding over his last meeting before stepping down, whenever there is concern regarding the safety of a child, the administration follows “very specific protocols,” including notifying the Department of Children and Families and conducting an independent investigation.
“There is nothing more important to this administration and this Board of Education than the welfare of students. And to say otherwise is simply to suggest you don’t know who we are,” Brenner said.
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