Jan 032013
Photo: Brian Hedden/Bay Ridge Odyssey

Photo: Brian Hedden/Bay Ridge Odyssey

Here’s a news item from while we were on break that our readers may have missed:

Poly Prep Country Day School [9216 7th Ave], known as one of New York City’s most prestigious private schools, has agreed to settle a milestone lawsuit claiming its longtime football coach sexually molested hundreds of boys during a career that lasted a quarter century – and that administrators covered up the crimes for decades, as reported by Michael O’Keeffe for Daily News.

The settlement between the school and 12 plaintiffs – all of whom say they were abused by now-deceased football coach Phil Foglietta, “closes a case with all-too-familiar allegations of abuse shielded by power and prestige,” the NY Times poignantly observed.

From Daily News:

The settlement ends a three-year legal and public relations battle that divided parents and alumni and turned the elite Brooklyn school into a symbol of institutional indifference to sexual abuse in youth sports. The explosive suit, filed in 2009, claimed officials at the Dyker Heights prep school knew that coach Phil Foglietta was a sexual predator, but ignored repeated complaints during his 25 years at the school because they didn’t want to jeopardize the institution’s athletic reputation and fund-raising efforts.

While the terms of the deal remain confidential, the agreement between the parties was announced through a joint written statement. Both sides opted to conclude what had at times been a contentious negotiation process with what the Times called a “unified voice.”

“This is the end of a long and difficult journey for these twelve plaintiffs who were victimized many years ago,” said Kevin Mulhearn, the lawyer who represented ten former students and two day campers who say they were abused by Foglietta. “Both the litigation and the settlement process were quite contentious but in the end both sides were able to achieve a measure of peace and healing through compromise.”

The graphic details and accounts of officials looking the other way which emerged during the case drew parallels with the recent Penn State scandal. According to one victim’s testimony reported by the News, former Poly Prep athletic director Harlow Parker saw Foglietta abusing him in a shower and walked off without stopping the assault, just as a grand jury report describes Nittany Lions receivers coach Mike McQueary failing to act when he witnessed the now-convicted Jerry Sandusky allegedly raping a boy in the showers of a Penn State locker room.

The Times reasoned that a new precedent set by the Poly Prep case – which was almost blocked from going forward because of the statute of limitations, could have implications for former students at Horace Mann – an elite private school in the Bronx which also faces accusations that former faculty members abused students.