School Climate & Safety

Suit Tying Demotion to Comments On Hazing Allegations Is Reinstated

By Andrew Trotter — April 18, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A federal appeals court has reinstated the employment lawsuit of a New York high school athletic director who claims that his job was abolished in retaliation for his statements about a school hazing incident.

In 2001, Louis J. Cioffi III investigated complaints of serious hazing, involving alleged sexual assault, of members of the Averill Park High School football team. He wrote a letter to the Averill Park Central School District’s superintendent that was critical of the football coach and his supervision of the team, according to court papers.

Later, as the hazing allegations became public, the school board, which also received the letter, voted to abolish Mr. Cioffi’s position as athletic director in the budget for the next school year, 2002-03.

Before that decision was finalized, Mr. Cioffi held a press conference and charged that his position was being cut in retribution for his criticisms of the coach and his investigation into the hazing.

In court, the district argued that it cut the athletic director’s position for budget reasons. But Mr. Cioffi, who as a tenured teacher exercised his right to remain employed as a teacher, though at a lower salary, disputed whether eliminating the athletic director’s job in fact saved money. The 2002-03 budget also created a new position, athletic director/assistant principal.

A lower court threw out Mr. Cioffi’s suit on the grounds that his statements were not protected speech, and that even if they were, he had shown no causal connection between his statements and the abolition of his position.

On April 4, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, in New York City, agreed unanimously that Mr. Cioffi’s suit should proceed to trial.

The opinion by Judge Richard J. Cardamone said that Mr. Cioffi’s speech in both his letter and the press conference were protected forms of speech on an issue of public concern.

“With no budgetary crisis, a reasonable jury could find that the defendants would not have taken the same action against Cioffi absent the letter and press conference,” the judge wrote.

Related Tags:


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Teaching Live Online Discussion Seat at the Table: How Can We Help Students Feel Connected to School?
Get strategies for your struggles with student engagement. Bring questions for our expert panel. Help students recover the joy of learning.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Science Webinar
Real-World Problem Solving: How Invention Education Drives Student Learning
Hear from student inventors and K-12 teachers about how invention education enhances learning, opens minds, and preps students for the future.
Content provided by The Lemelson Foundation

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Opinion This Is What Happens to a Student’s Brain When Exposed to Gun Violence
Traumatized and hypervigilant brains cannot learn effectively, write a behavioral neuroscientist and a school psychologist.
Amanda M. Dettmer & Tammy L. Hughes
5 min read
Conceptual illustration of a lone figure standing in a sea of bullets
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Jorm Sangsorn/iStock; Getty images
School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center What Would Make Schools Safer? Here's What Educators Say
Respondents to a national survey of educators said measures like red flag laws, more school counselors are key to any school safety law.
7 min read
Photograph of crime scene tape and school.
F.Sheehan/Education Week and Getty
School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center 'The World Feels Less Stable': Educators' Sense of School Safety Right Now
6 in 10 educators said a mass shooting by a student or outsider was their biggest source of fear.
7 min read
Woman standing on a paper boat with a tsunami wave approaching.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School Climate & Safety Texas Top Cop: Uvalde Police Could Have Ended Rampage Early On
The head of the Texas state police pronounced the law enforcement response an “abject failure.”
5 min read
FILE - Law enforcement, and other first responders, gather outside Robb Elementary School following a shooting, on May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. Law enforcement authorities had enough officers on the scene of the Uvalde school massacre to have stopped the gunman three minutes after he entered the building, the Texas public safety chief testified Tuesday, June 21 pronouncing the police response an “abject failure.”(AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File)