New York: Two more lawsuits allege hazing on Wilson bus

By Thomas J. Prohaska
The Buffalo News
WILSON, N.Y. — Two more lawsuits were filed against the Wilson Central School District today, bringing to three the number of civil actions against the school stemming from the April 2008 baseball team hazing incidents.

The latest suits, filed on behalf of two junior varsity players and their parents, charge that both boys were sexually assaulted — the same allegation originally made by State Police investigators, which the Niagara County district attorney’s office later dropped.

One varsity player, now 19 and graduated from school, pleaded guilty to child endangerment last month. Two others were acquitted of forcible touching, hazing and child endangerment in a nonjury trial in Town Court, in a verdict announced July 9. The lawsuits, filed in State Supreme Court in Niagara County by attorney James W. Grable Jr. of Buffalo’s Connors & Vilardo firm, do not specify a damage amount being sought by the school district. Full story.

Garden City, N.Y. schools pledge to go “bully free”

The Garden City News
Students at the Stewart and Stratford schools pledged their support to become a bully free school by participating in “Bully Free Day.” Designed by social worker, Michele Degati, “Bully Free Day” was created to raise student awareness about bullying. Students and faculty were asked to wear the color yellow to show their support for the event.

Students reflected on how a bullying victim might feel by writing in their morning journal entries. Teachers were provided with copies of the story, “The Cool Kids” by J.K. Rowling, to spark classroom discussion about the impact of relational aggression, popularity and excluding children on the playground.

Teachers adapted the activities to their classrooms by facilitating important class discussions, incorporating the “Don’t Laugh At Me” curriculum, and helping students reflect on the power of being a good bystander to someone in need. Mrs. Benito’s fifth grade class at the Stewart School reflected on the day’s experiences on their classroom blog. Ms. Piscopo’s second graders at the Stratford School created paper tee shirts with “Bully Free” slogans which were displayed on a clothesline in the cafeteria. Full story.

N.Y. hazing case: Wilson coaches get final word 15 months after arrests

By April Amadon
Niagara Gazette
A gathered crowd erupted into applause as Thomas Baia and William Atlas walked out the back door of Baia’s home with their families Wednesday morning.

During a noontime press conference the two coaches who have been cleared of charges in connection with an alleged hazing case were joined by dozens of community members and friends, who stood behind a gaggle of reporters holding signs declaring their support for the coaches.

“Never would I knowingly allow a student to be physically abusive to another student,” Baia told the crowd. “I have dedicated my adult life to being the very opposite of what these charges say.”

As Atlas spoke about his job as a coach and physical education teacher, he became choked up, pausing for a moment to collect himself.

“I have worked hard for 11 years to get the perfect job … being a positive influence on children,” he said. “Because of the accusations, this joy was ripped from my life instantly.” Full story.

Charges against NY coaches dropped in hazing case

By Thomas J. Prohaska
The Buffalo News
WILSON — After 15 months and more than $200,000 of taxpayers’ money, the criminal case against two Wilson High School baseball coaches came to naught Monday.

Instead of beginning to select a jury, Niagara County Assistant District Attorney Robert A. Zucco moved to dismiss the charges against suspended coaches William M. Atlas and Thomas J. Baia.

Zucco offered no explanation for the decision. He and defense attorneys said they did not want to comment while Town Justice George R. Berger is still considering his verdict in the trial of two former players who were charged with roughing up some of their teammates on the team bus April 17, 2008, as it headed home from a game in Niagara Falls. Full story.