By CHRIS EBERHART
A petition filed with the state Education Department against Tuckahoe Schools Super-intendent Barbara Nuzzi is calling for her removal, suspension or admonishment after violating a student’s due process.
A Tuckahoe High School student, whose name is being withheld because he is a minor, was suspended from the high school football team for one game after an Oct. 13 statement on the micro-blogging website Twitter stating, “Your [sic] such a waste to this community. Not one person here likes you.”
The tweet was retweeted by his friend, whose name is also being withheld because he is a minor, and then submitted to the school by a parent.
Leonard Carraturo, the uncle and legal guardian of the suspended student, said the tweet was not directed at anyone in the school but the student’s father, with whom he has a tumultuous relationship, according to Carraturo.
Nevertheless, the student was suspended by Nuzzi under the school’s catch-all athletic pledge, which is signed by all student-athletes. The pledge states, “I will comport myself with the standards set forth in the articles contained in this pledge throughout the year in recognition of the fact that athletes are athletes the whole year, and must be responsible for their actions in school and out of school, in season and out of season.”
Carraturo said his nephew was never told what he did to violate the pledge or given an opportunity to plead his case. He was suspended on Saturday, Oct. 19 without the school notifying him or the student’s mother, who wished to remain anonymous.
On the Monday following the suspension, the student’s mother met with Tuckahoe High School’s assistant principal, Johanna Tramantano, and the high school’s principal, Dr. Bart Linehan, who told her that the suspension was handed down by Tuckahoe Athletic Director Alex Bonci.
But, according to a letter drafted by James Forde, an attorney representing the suspended student that was sent to Superintendent Nuzzi, Bonci denied the claim. And, Carraturo was told by Nuzzi in a later meeting that she was responsible for the suspension, he said.
Carraturo said the school’s assistant principal told him another parent submitted the tweet as evidence, claiming it was a malicious attack directed at another student, but Tramantano refused to tell Carraturo who the parent was.
Forde said he doesn’t believe there is an accuser and called the claims of hateful speech “political correctness gone mad.”
In Forde’s letter to Nuzzi, he wrote, “The notion that the tweets could have possibly been hatefully directed towards some third student is obviously a product of fantasy.”
In the letter, which was obtained by The Eastchester Review, Forde demanded a written response from the school district within 10 days, beginning on Oct. 25, naming the accuser and the steps taken during the investigative process.
Instead of a written response, Forde said the school district’s attorney, Erin Rose Morris, called him and said the student’s guardians were fully advised of the reason for the athletic suspension and the school did everything they were legally supposed to do.
“[Tuckahoe High School’s attorney Erin Rose Morris] also said there’s nothing you can really do about it because the suspension is already over,” Forde said. “She claims there is nothing on his record to be exponged, and [state education Commissioner John King] will only take action if there is something to be removed [from his record] or for an upcoming suspension, not a suspension that has already happened”
Carraturo said typically, athletic suspensions do not appear on school records, but he wants written proof from the school saying his record is clean.
Because there was no written response from the high school, Forde then appealed to state Commissioner King demanding Nuzzi’s removal, suspension or admonishment, the accuser’s name and the removal of any reference to the suspension on the student’s record and a guarantee the school district will not seek retaliation on the student for filing the petition.
Nuzzi has 20 days, starting Nov. 18, to respond in writing to the petition to the state. Forde then has 10 days to reply.
“Nuzzi, being the new sheriff in town, wanted to lay down the law and set an example,” Carraturo said. “That’s why she suspended the kid.”
Forde said Nuzzi and the school district continue to be unresponsive and refuse to take this matter serious.
The superintendent said she can’t comment on pending litigation or matters pertaining to it. Morris could not be reached for comment as of press time.