NORTH SHORE FACULTY STANDS UP FOR EXONERATED TEACHER - SUBMITS PETITION REQUESTING REINSTATEMENT
October 27 --- At this past Thursday’s North Shore Board of Education meeting, more than 150 faculty members clad in school colors filled the center section of the North Shore High School auditorium, and stood as teacher's union President Bruce Fichtman read a statement in support of Middle School Physical Education Teacher and Varsity lacrosse coach Aaron Kozlowski. For more than seven months, Mr. Kozlowski has been on “administrative reassignment” after being accused of inappropriate conduct by four students last winter. In April, the Nassau County’s District Attorney’s office brought four criminal charges against the teacher. On September 27, Nassau County Court Judge Valerie Alexander dismissed three of the charges, and on the fourth, issued an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal, with the probationary period waived.
At Thursday’s Board meeting, President Herman Berliner issued a statement that said the “district has undertaken all due diligence and necessary steps to bring its own investigation to a conclusion. Mr. Kozlowski remains administratively reassigned with pay pending the outcome of our investigation. His employment status as a teacher in the district at the Middle School is now the subject of review between our legal counsel, the Board of Education and our administrative leaders. Reaching a conclusion is taking longer than any of us would like.” Dr. Berliner stated that the district could not “provide further comment on the issue until the matter is formally resolved.”
Mr. Fichtman then stepped up to the microphone and read his statement in support of Mr. Kozlowski, and called on the Board to reinstate the cleared teacher as quickly as possible. (Click here for full statement.)
“My colleagues and I stand before you tonight in support of Mr. Aaron Kozlowski an exceptional teacher, an admired coach and an extraordinary courageous man,” said Mr. Fichtman. “It is an honor for me to represent and speak on Aaron’s behalf tonight. Regretfully, Aaron is not allowed to attend this meeting.” Then, after expressing his respect for the school board and central administration, Mr. Fichtman continued, “tonight, we attend this meeting discouraged and disappointed, not for any actions you have taken, but for your lack of action. We are here tonight to request that Aaron Kozlowski be immediately reinstated as a teacher and coach in the North Shore School District.”
Mr. Fichtman explained Mr. Kozlowski’s ordeal, from having been brought to Central Office on March 11th and presented with the accusations against him and being asked to resign his position, to the humiliation of having his colleagues learn the following day via e-mail that he had been placed on administrative reassignment, to spending a night in jail in April when the Nassau County’s D.A.’s office lodged charges against him.
Throughout his statement, Mr. Fichtman repeatedly said Mr. Kozlowski was “falsely accused” and “an innocent man.”
The union President then explained that “after a comprehensive investigation by the District Attorney’s office, one of the four students recanted his statement, and two others refused to speak to the District Attorney throughout the entire length of the investigation. After a forensic investigation of the school’s computer, as well as both Aaron and his wife’s personal computers, no evidence was found to support the claim. On September 27, 2013, upon a complete and thorough investigation by the District Attorney’s office, three out of the four charges against Aaron were dismissed by Judge Alexander pursuant to New York State Criminal Procedure law in the interest of justice. As to the fourth count, Judge Alexander granted an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (also known as an ACOD) effective immediately. The probationary period which is normally associated with this dismissal was waived by Judge Alexander.”
“Despite the fact that all four counts were immediately dismissed by the Nassau County Judicial Court System,” Mr. Fichtman continued, “Aaron and his family have suffered immeasurable damage. The false accusations and his arrest were reported in Newsday and on local television news and radio stations. Although innocent of all charges, he has been found guilty in the public’s eye.”
Mr. Fichtman then presented to the school board a petition signed by 300 North Shore Schools faculty members requesting that the board act as expeditiously as possible in re-instating Mr. Kozlowski.
In part the petition reads, “when due process has been accorded, when all claims have been investigated and dismissed by our judicial system, when all charges have been dropped, it is also the Board’s responsibility to publically exonerate that teacher and allow him to reenter his profession. Every day accused is a day convicted in the public’s mind. Every day that you refuse to reinstate our colleague heaps more damage on a person who has been falsely accused and publically humiliated without cause or substance.”
President Herman Berliner thanked Mr. Fichtman for his statement, and replied that “all of us on the board are determined to resolve this matter as quickly as possible and we are doing everything we can to do so.”
A few minutes later, a parent addressed the Board, speaking of Mr. Kozlowski’s positive impact on his players, and the assistance he provided players in getting scholarships and into colleges. She concluded saying that Mr. Kozlowski “is a first-rate teacher, a wonderful leader, a fantastic role model and person who cares. . . . If Kathleen Rice can’t find a reason, why are you postponing this?”
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LINK TO MR. FICHTMAN'S STATEMENT
North Shore Teacher's Union petition submitted to the school board this past Thursday evening