By Mosi Secret (New York Times)
December 27, 2012
An elite Brooklyn private school agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by former students accusing the school of covering up decades of sexual abuse of hundreds of boys by a star football coach.
The settlement, between Poly Prep Country Day School and 12 plaintiffs who said they had been abused, closes a case with all-too-familiar allegations of abuse shielded by power and prestige: Philip Foglietta, the football coach who took the Poly Prep team to great heights after his arrival there in 1966 and who died in 1998, is said to have groped and raped boys on campus, in his car and on trips, while administrators enamored with his success ignored a series of allegations made against him.
The terms of the settlement, first reported by The New York Daily News, are confidential. The original claim was filed in 2009 in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. The parties released a joint written statement, capping an often-contentious negotiation with a unified voice.
The school’s headmaster, David B. Harman, said, “We hope that the settlement brings a measure of closure to those members of the Poly community who were abused by Philip Foglietta.” He added, “We will do everything in our power to insure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
Kevin Mulhearn, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs and also a graduate of Poly Prep, said the settlement was “the end of a long and difficult journey for these 12 plaintiffs who were victimized many years ago.” He called those plaintiffs “special men, who fought long and hard for justice.”
Both men praised Cheryl Pollak, the magistrate judge who pushed the parties together.
The lawsuit tells of how boys and their parents approached Poly Prep administrators with accusations of abuse by Mr. Foglietta over many years, only to have those administrators protect the coach.
Mr. Foglietta was hired by the school as its football coach in 1966, and a student spoke out that same year. William Jackson, then an eighth grader, told his parents that Mr. Foglietta abused him, and he and his parents took those allegations to the school. Administrators “proceeded to conduct a sham investigation,” the complaint says, and told Mr. Jackson and his parents that the accusations were lies and that any further complaints would result in severe consequences.
That was a dark turn for Mr. Jackson, one of the plaintiffs: he lost his parents’ trust, and they died estranged from him. He struggled with drug and alcohol abuse and depression, and tried to kill himself in 2004. The complaint describes similar trajectories for the other plaintiffs and says hundreds of other victims probably followed suit.
Another plaintiff, Philip Culhane, took a broader view of the case. “This is meaningful, the picture fuller now, and life and history can resume,” he said.
Their case was almost blocked from going forward because of the statute of limitations. Indeed, a similar suit against Poly Prep in 2004 over the abuse was dismissed because the statute of limitations had been exceeded.
Survivors of sexual abuse that occurred while they were children must file a case by the time they are 23. But a ruling by a federal judge, Frederic Block, set the stage for a hearing to determine whether the school had actively covered up the abuse and whether those actions had prevented the plaintiffs from bringing the case sooner.
That ruling could have implications for former students at Horace Mann, a top-tier private school in the Bronx that has also recently faced accusations that former faculty members abused students.