Federal investigations focus on Coleytown Middle School

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Federal investigations focus on Coleytown Middle School

Sophie Driscoll '19, Editor In Chief

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Coleytown Middle School (CMS) is the focus of two federal investigations opened by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, according to documents newly obtained by the Westport News through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The investigations were opened on Nov. 9 in response to allegations claiming a school principal and guidance counsellor shook a student complaining of harassment, the Westport News reported.

The federal investigations are said to focus on allegations of racial and sexual discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

According to a letter sent to the Board of Education from the Office for Civil Rights obtained by the Westport News, the student had been complaining about derogatory comments made by his fellow students regarding his race and sex. The letter claimed the Board responded to the matter by punishing the student in multiple ways, including with an out-of-school suspension.

Westport School District superintendent Dr. Colleen Palmer notes that, while the allegations have not yet been proven true, the district is “committed to making sure that we never accept any student or individual being discriminated against or not feeling part of our school community.”

Furthermore, on May 12, Palmer sent an email to all families of students in the school system, in which she stated, “We should allow the process of review to proceed unfettered without rumors or innuendo.”

However, according to an anonymous female seventh-grade student at CMS, the school guidance counsellors often respond to student complaints inappropriately.

“Every time somebody is obviously upset and distracted, many [students] are basically told that it is an inappropriate way to act, and not even the guidance counsellor really tries to help,” she said.

Not all students feel as though the school guidance counsellors respond inappropriately to student complaints.

“I feel that the CMS administrators do respond appropriately for bullying.  They take bullying very seriously and, from what I observe, take appropriate actions in the case of a bullying situation,” CMS student Owen Dolan ’21 said.

Dolan also stated that he believes CMS administrators treat students with respect. “I have never seen a CMS administrator shake or touch a child with aggression,” he said.

Attorney Michael Iacurci, who is representing two Westport families, told the Westport News that a civil lawsuit will also be filed against the Westport Board of Education.

CMS principal Kris Szabo, CMS vice principal Lauren Pitocco, Director of Pupil Services Michael Rizzo, CMS guidance counsellor Ellen Redgate and CMS guidance counsellor Maggie Hassey did not respond to requests for comments.
CMS vice principal Micah Lawrence, Director of Human Resources John Bayers, CMS guidance counsellor Stephanie Voucas and Staples High School Director of Guidance Elaine Schwartz declined requests for comments.

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