Town needs to hire independent investigator after student suicide

FI-Letter-to-the-EditorTo the Editor

The Post’s editorial (Sept. 12) asked whether the town legal department can properly investigate the circumstances that led to the suicide of Bart Palosz. Your optimistic answer was “It’s wrong to assume they can’t.”

I respectfully disagree.

The town faces possible legal claims by the Palosz family that will be defended by the legal department. That department has a professional responsibility to discourage, rather than promote, full disclosure and accountability — thus an absolute conflict of interest.

Any serious investigation of the events leading to Bart’s death (as well as the general issue of bullying in the Greenwich schools) requires an independent investigator with the experience, skills, objectivity and resources to determine the facts and draw informed conclusions.

The investigator should have power to compel testimony and access all relevant documents. The alleged shoving incidents, one of which resulted in stitches in Bart’s forehead, were — if they occurred — violent crimes within a town school.

The investigator should also have the experience needed to suggest specific future school policies about bullying. When should a bully be subject to suspension and even expulsion? When should teachers and other staff members who overlook bullying be punished?

The investigator should resolve, in an unbiased manner, privacy issues. If, as the Superintendent of Schools has indicated, anything relating to Bart’s experience is subject to rules of privacy, an expansive interpretation of those rules could mean that much of the results of the investigation and subsequent actions by the school administration might never be disclosed to the public and the “uncomfortable truths” mentioned in the editorial may never be known.

In an analogous case, earlier this month an out of state law firm experienced in sexual misconduct investigations was selected to investigate how the University of Connecticut handled information about a professor alleged to have had improper sexual conduct with young boys and university students.

Just as the state did there, the town must hire an experienced, independent professional to investigate the alleged pattern of widespread bullying and staff indifference leading to Bart’s tragic death and misery for so many other Greenwich students.

 

Pete Beck
Greenwich

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