Criticism leveled at school board over handling of coach
DARIEN — It is “pathetic” the school board won’t release a video that shows Darien High School football coach Rob Trifone’s allegedly slapping a helmeted player in the head, according to a member of the Representative Town Meeting.
During public comment at the beginning of the meeting, Joseph Hardison took the stand and referenced a meeting he had with superintendent Dr. Dan Brenner and other education officials at the beginning of Brenner’s assignment in August 2015. During this meeting, Hardison claims Brenner said he would have fired a girl’s lacrosse coach who grabbed a goalie by the helmet.
“Now 14 months later, we have this incident where you guys are hiding behind releasing the video by saying it’s a part of a student’s file,” said Hardison, a member of the RTM’s education committee at a Nov. 9 school board meeting. “Now that is just pathetic. So, I’m wondering do you have any plans to release it? Any plans to respond?”
Trifone was suspended for two weeks after smacking a player on the side of the helmet during a game against Norwich Free Academy on Oct. 1. On Oct. 18, the district announced they were doubling the length of Trifone’s suspension after seeing security footage. The district did not specify what was on the video.
Hardison then asked the board if they would release the footage from the incident causing Trifone’s suspension.
Michael Harman, chairperson of the board, told Hardison the district’s attorney had already responded to requests that the video be released. On Oct. 21, an FOI request that the video be released was denied because it’s an educational record since it contains information directly related to a student, which means the video cannot be released under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
“You said you were being accountable,” Hardison said in response. “The parent can sign a form and release that video tomorrow. This is your chance for accountability.”
Harman reiterated the attorney had already responded to the request.
Board member Michael Burke responded to Hardison’s comment before continuing the meeting.
“I’m not going to sit here and have someone call us pathetic and call our decisions into question,” he said. “It’s free speech, but I reject the notion and characterization of the public comment.”
When asked for comment afterward, Hardison said he would be pursuing the issue with the board in private.