Move over, Jerry Sandusky. A prestigious private school in New York agreed on Wednesday to settle a lawsuit alleging that its longtime football coach sexually abused hundreds of boys over a 25-year period. The suit further contended that officials at Poly Prep Country Day School covered up the assaults for decades.
New York’s Daily News reports:
The settlement ends a three-year legal and public relations battle that divided parents and alumni and turned the elite Brooklyn school into a symbol of institutional indifference to sexual abuse in youth sports. The explosive suit, filed in 2009, claimed officials at the Dyker Heights prep school knew that coach Phil Foglietta was a sexual predator, but ignored repeated complaints during his 25 years at the school because they didn’t want to jeopardize the institution’s athletic reputation and fund-raising efforts.
School administrators were reluctant to discuss the specific terms of the settlement. Headmaster David Harman instead released a statement reading in part:
We hope that the settlement brings a measure of closure to those members of the Poly community who were abused by Philip Foglietta. Poly Prep has established itself as a model for the prevention of abuse to those within our care and we will do everything in our power to insure that nothing like this ever happens again.
The lawsuit sought $20 million for each plaintiff and converted the school into a symbol of institutional indifference to sexual abuse in youth sports. One of the plaintiffs stated that former Poly Prep athletic director Harlow Parker saw Foglietta abusing him in a shower and simply walked away without stopping the assault. Another, claiming that he was sexually assaulted on almost a daily basis, insists the incidents began as early as age 10.
The case naturally invoked comparisons with the Penn State sex-abuse scandal that led to the arrest and conviction of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and the downfall of the football team’s iconic coach Joe Paterno.
Poly Prep attorneys argued that the suit, filed in Brooklyn federal court, should have been dismissed because it was filed long after the statute of limitations had expired. But U.S. District Court Judge Frederic Block, in what may prove a watershed legal moment for victims of sexual abuse, ruled in August that portions of the suit could permitted to go forward because of possible false testimony by administrators who claimed they has no awareness of the abuse allegations before 1991. The suit alleged that Poly Prep officials had covered up the abuse since 1966, the year they hired Foglietta.
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