By CHRIS EBERHART
A high school athletic director has exposed the behind-the-scenes movements of a Tuckahoe high school student’s wrongful athletic suspension and the school’s attempted cover-up afterward.
The cover-up focuses on the role school officials played in determining punishment for actions that today remain in question.
In October 2013, a parent submitted a student’s post to the micro-blogging website Twitter to Tuckahoe High School administrators, which said, “Your [sic] such a waste to this community. Not one person here likes you,” claiming it was malicious and hatefully directed at another student. The student, whose name is being withheld because he is a minor, was subsequently suspended from an Oct. 19 Tuckahoe football game.
The student’s uncle and legal guardian, Lenny Carraturo, said his nephew was suspended without due process. According to Carraturo, the student was never told why he was being suspended except that it was for “violating the athletic pledge,” nor was the student able to explain his side of the story to school administrators. The suspension was also handed down without informing Carraturo or the student’s mother, the uncle claims.
Until recently, the identities of which school official issued the suspension and the parent that submitted the tweet were never revealed, and are still being kept secret by the school despite the suspended student’s lawyer threatening a lawsuit against Schools Superintendent Dr. Barbara Nuzzi and the sc-hool district.
However, Tuckahoe Athletic Director Alex Bonci signed an affidavit on Jan. 15, obtained by the Eastchester Review, stating Tuc-kahoe High School Assis-tant Principal Johanna Tramantano showed him an email from David Pope, a parent and financial contributor to the school, submitting the student’s tweet and saying it violated the Dignity for All Students Act.
This is an accusation Pope vehemently denied.
“I’m going on record as saying I did not submit any tweet,” Pope said. “It’s a smokescreen to divert the superintendent and the board away from educational matters. But I’m not going to get dragged into this.”
According to Bonci’s affidavit, which was filed in support of the suspended student, the situation stems from an off-campus party that took place a week before the suspension at which school administration officials believe some wrong doing might have taken place.
Bonci, who is also an East-chester police officer and brother to Eastchester Police Chief Timothy Bonci, said he investigated the situation in that capacity, but said, “no evidence of wrong doing was found at the off-campus party.”
In his affidavit, Bonci said a meeting between him, high school Principal Dr. Bart Lin-ehan, Tramantano and Nu-zzi was about to end without any disciplinary action taken place against the students when “Ms. Tramantano said, ‘Wait, I have something else. We have this tweet exchange and that we can get the students under the provisions of the athletic pledge.’”
To which Nuzzi replied, “Good, I want to make an example of them,” according to Bonci’s affidavit. Bonci said in the affidavit, he believed Nuzzi, who just took over as superintendent of Tuckahoe in August 2013, wanted to establish herself as a stern disciplinarian.
James Forde, an attorney repre-senting the suspended student, said, “That is how Dr. Barbara Nuzzi made the determination to suspend this student without notice, without investigation, without advising his guardians and without even the most minimal of due process rights.”
Forde appealed the suspension to the Commissioner of state Education Department John King on Nov. 16, 2013 which demanded a written response with the name of the parent that submitted the tweet; the name of the administrator who issued the suspension; removal of any reference to the suspension on the student’s record, although typically there’s no written record of an athletic suspension; and a guarantee that the school district will not seek retaliation on the student.
The petition also requested the removal of, or disciplinary action taken against, Nuzzi.
It was this petition, Bonci said, that began the school’s scramble to cover-up the suspension.
In his affidavit, Bonci said, after Forde’s petition was filed, he was approached by Nuzzi, who told him, “We needed to be on the same page” regarding the fact that “we all made the decision together,” and the school’s lawyer, Erin Rose Morris, would send him an affidavit to sign to this effect, which he said he never received.
“This, of course, would be a false statement, since Dr. Nuzzi unilaterally made the decision of her own accord,” Bonci said in his affidavit, referring to Nuzzi’s decision to hand out the suspension. “I have no intention of executing such a false affidavit and exposing myself to the penalties of perjury.”
Before Bonci’s affidavit, the school responded to the petition of appeal with affidavits written by Nuzzi, Linehan and Tramantano, which Forde called, “cookie cutter versions of each other.” Forde said all three affidavits were written in such a way so as to avoid writing who submitted the tweets and who handed down the suspension.
Multiple calls and messages left with the school district’s attorney requesting these affidavits went unreturned.
Looking back, Bonci said Pope’s animosity with the sc-hool’s coaches stems from his son’s lack of playing time on the high school football team.
“Mr. Pope has discussed his son’s involvement in high school athletics with me in the past,” Bonci said in the affidavit. “He has made it clear he believes—actually demanded—that his son should be the quarterback and defensive end of the football team, and this matter has been discussed with the appropriate coaches, who feel [his son] is not prepared to do so at this point. This has created a great deal of animosity between Mr. Pope and the coaching staff at the high school, which accounts for Mr. Pope’s desire to take actions against other players on the team.”
Calls to Pope for comment on alleged animosity with school coaches were not returned as of press time.