Journalism / New Haven Register

Guilford dad protests daughter’s ‘hazing’

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
June 13, 2008

GUILFORD — Students and parents leaving the high school Thursday afternoon spotted an unusual sight as Kenneth Chain walked a one-man picket line.

Chain, whose daughter graduated from the school last year, wore a sandwich board designed to raise awareness about his concerns over his daughter’s time on the girls’ hockey team. With the headings “Guilford’s Double Standard” and “Hazing of Athletes,” the posters laid out his complaint that some incidents on the team were not taken seriously by the coach and administration.

The concerns stem from an incident in December 2006, when some members of the team put transparent tape on a few players’ skates. Chain’s daughter Lauren, now 20, did not see the tape and “went flying” when she got on the ice, he said. No one was injured.

A few days later, Chain said, the coach asked the students involved to come forward and apologize, which they did. But Chain felt that “punishment did not fit the crime,” and the players should have received a one-game suspension.

“That would have been the end of it and I would have gone away a happy camper” if the students had received that punishment, he said.

Chain said the events were humiliating for his daughter.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Forcella called the taping incident a “prank” and said he thinks the coach and athletic director handled the situation appropriately, by having the students involved apologize to the rest of the team.

“I investigated his concern and felt that what the school did and the athletic director did, what the coach did, was appropriate,” Forcella said. “We’re very serious about hazing and we didn’t see this as a hazing issue or a bullying issue.”

Forcella said the school’s policy for hazing would involve a suspension for games or possibly removal from the team.

Athletic Director Chip Dorwin could not be reached for comment.

Chain also had concerns about what he said were inappropriate comments made by the coach to his daughter and other athletes. Last year, he filed a complaint with the Board of Education, after meeting with Dorwin and Forcella about the situation.

In January, a committee of board members set up to deal with the complaint declined to review it further, saying that the concern did not fall under the board’s jurisdiction. In addition, they said, the incident did not fit the definition of bullying under state law, which covers acts “repeated against the same student over time,” according to a letter from the committee to Chain.

After receiving the Board of Education’s response earlier this year, Chain said he decided to picket the school in order to make others aware of the situation. He added that he does not plan to pursue the matter further after Thursday.

“My main reason (for picketing) is that I’m my daughter’s advocate, and the second reason is the school system’s failure to carry out their responsibility for both the actions and lack of actions on the part of their employees,” he said.

Chain, who is retired after a career as a teacher in New Haven Public Schools, stood on Long Hill Road, where the high school is located, for about an hour as school let out Thursday. At first he walked directly in front of the school, but Principal Rick Misenti asked him to move further down the road so that cars slowing to read his signs would not cause any accidents.

Forcella said he was surprised by Chain’s actions Thursday, because he thought the situation had been resolved with the Board of Education’s response.

Chain, who has an older daughter who also graduated from Guilford schools, said he wanted to wait for the Board of Education’s response before making his concerns more public. He added that he thinks many parents don’t criticize coaches because they worry about their children losing playing time.

“I just think parents should be made aware of what goes on. People are fearful of speaking up,” he said. “This is closure for me, as far as I’m concerned, for the few people who may have gone by and seen this.”

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