Darien High School football coach suspended from teaching duties
On May 17, the school district suspended Trifone without pay for 10 days, although it was later reduced when the Darien teacher agreed to a deduction from next year’s salary instead.
The initial 10-day suspension from teaching duties was leveled against the science teacher for allegedly disclosing identifiable student information that violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Darien resident Jay Hardison.
According to a memorandum from the district’s Director of Human Resources, Marjorie Cion, Trifone also violated board policies that prevent district employees from using the district’s computer system to send personally-identifiable student information to third parties and ignored the directives of school administration.
Trifone met with Cion and DHS Principal Ellen Dunn May 17 to discuss concerns his emails violated FERPA and additional board policies. A union representative accompanied Trifone to the meeting, but the Darien resident later sought his own representation in the matter.
The memorandum on Trifone’s suspension said Trifone was provided the chance to review the emails and respond to the district’s concerns. He allegedly acknowledged the emails did enclose personally identifiable student information.
After meeting with Trifone, school administration determined he had been in violation of both FERPA and board policies. On behalf of the superintendent, Cion upheld the 10-day suspension without pay and informed Trifone about it in a memo dated May 30.
After the memo was issued the first half of the suspension — May 15 to May 19 — had already been served by Trifone with the remaining days set for June 9, 12, 13, 14 and 15. The later dates had been chosen after a request from Trifone to minimize the impact on the students in his science courses.
Trifone, however, filed a grievance against the superintendent and the school board, alleging they lacked just cause to suspend him.
Both sides agreed to settle the matter in “a manner that did not adversely affect the curricular and extra-curricular programming for students of Darien High School,” according to documents released to the Darien News. In lieu of serving the final five days of unpaid suspension, Trifone agreed to a dock in pay, the equivalent of five days’ salary. A total of $3,006.15 will be withheld, spread out over 22 pay periods next school year.
The May suspension was the third punishment level against the longtime coach during the 2016-17 school year.
Back in October, Trifone was also suspended from coaching for four weeks after he slapped a player on the side of his helmet during an Oct. 1 game against Norwich Free Academy. The district initially announced Trifone would be suspended for two weeks, then extended his punishment for another two weeks before his initial suspension was up. No explanation was given for the extension.
Trifone did not return calls seeking comment as of press time, nor did the school district’s attorney, Thomas Mooney.