New York Private School Settles Sexual Molestation Lawsuit

Another prestigious school is accused of covering up a football coach’s sex abuse allegations, which took place over a 25-year period.

In September 2012, we reported about this scandal involving Poly Prep Country Day School, an elite private school in New York.

The lawsuit was brought against the school by ten former students and two men, who, while they were still underage, attended the school’s summer camp program. The plaintiffs allege that they were raped and molested by the former football coach from 1966 through 1991. Since each plaintiff was a minor at the time of the alleged abuse, under N.Y. law they would each have three years from the time they turn 18 years of age to file the negligence claims, according to the decision.

This settlement was reached after three years of legal and public relations battles between the parents of the alleged abused students and alumni. This lawsuit shed negative light on the school because of the media coverage soon after the highly publicized child-molestation conviction of long-time Penn State Assistant Football Coach, Jerry Sandusky.

Poly Prep has agreed to settle the lawsuit, claiming that its longtime football coach had sexually abused hundreds of boys over a 25-year period, while officials covered up the assaults for decades.

This lawsuit, initially filed in 2009, alleges that officials at the school knew that coach Phil Foglietta, painted as an insatiable predator, abused so many boys, but turned a deaf ear to numerous complaints because they didn’t want to jeopardize the school’s athletic reputation or affect fund-raising revenues generated by Foglietta’s successful football program.  Foglietta was the most powerful person on campus, similar to iconic Joe Paterno at Penn State.

According to the lawsuit, a Poly Prep football player, John Marino, told former athletic director Harlow Parker and ex-headmaster Williams during the 1970s that he had seen Foglietta molesting boys on at least 10 separate occasions. Parker and Williams responded, according to court papers, by telling Marino’s parents that he was a troublemaker and threatened to discipline him if he continued with the allegations.

School officials said that they did not learn about the abuse allegations until 1991, when a former student named David Hiltbrandt contacted Williams and told him that the coach had abused him in the 1960s. Williams and other school officials said they chose not to renew the coach’s contract because of Hiltbrandt’s allegations. The plaintiffs argued that although the school fired the coach for misconduct, it lied to the school’s community about the true reason for his dismissal, as well as his career at the school.

A few months after Foglietta arrived at the school, the lawsuit says, a student named William Jackson complained that the coach had sexually abused him. Parker and then-headmaster Scull, according to the suit, told Jackson’s parents that he made up the allegations and threatened to expel him if he raised them again. This was the beginning of the cover-up.

This lawsuit drew comparisons to the Penn State sex-abuse scandal: One plaintiff says Parker saw Foglietta abusing him in the shower and simply walked away without stopping the assault, just as a grand jury report describes Nittany Lions receiver coach Mike McQueary failing to act when he witnessed now convicted Jerry Sandusky allegedly raping a boy in the showers of a Penn State locker room.

Other plaintiffs say Foglietta abused them hundreds of times. One alleged Foglietta victim said he developed sores on his genitals after the coach assaulted him on an almost daily basis, beginning when he was 10 years old.

The cover-up continued even after the suit was filed. They complained that Poly Prep refused to testify honestly or provide requested documents, resulting in the sanctioning of the school in 2011 for discarding documents relevant to the case.

However, they still continued to portray Foglietta as a valued educator and coach, even after Hiltbrandt came forward. They even honored the alleged pedophile with a lavish retirement celebration at the Downtown Athletic Club in Manhattan later that year.

The plaintiffs claim that the abuse by the coach led to substance abuse, depression and a host of other problems. Some boys struggled academically, while others claim the abuse damaged their ability’s to pursue meaningful careers, as well as relationships.

The lawsuit sought $20 million for each plaintiff, although Poly Prep officials declined to reveal the details of the settlement in a statement issued Wednesday.

“We hope that the settlement brings a measure of closure to those members of the Poly community who were abused by Philip Foglietta, “headmaster David Harman said in the statement. “Poly Prep has established itself as a model for the prevention of abuse to those within our care and we will do everything in our power to insure that nothing like this ever happens again.”

Hopefully, the ruling will prove that there is justice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The children are entrusted in the care of the school and it is expected that they be protected, not violated.

Feel free to comment on this blog post. Contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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