Stonington — The attorney investigating how school officials handled years of complaints that former teacher and coach Timothy Chokas had sexually harassed female students with repeated unwanted touching and inappropriate comments is getting ready to wrap up her interviews.
Before that though, attorney Christine Chinni, said she plans to reach out one last time on the Stonington Community Forum and on the school board’s website, with a statement indicating that the investigation will be ending soon.
Anyone with information about Chokas and how complaints were handled are asked to to contact Chinni at SPSinvestigation@chinniandmeuser.com or (860) 677-0255.
Chinni reported to the Board of Education last Thursday, that since her last report three weeks ago she had interviewed two more students and an adult, and received information from an adult who provided her with documents. She said she is hoping her most recent interview of a student will lead to at least one additional interview.
In her written report to the board, she said a few other witnesses have come forward and she is planning to conduct second interviews with the administration to address information she learned during her investigation.
“However, I believe that, barring another group of witnesses coming forward, it will be time to wind the investigation down and provide the board with a final report,” she said. That report will be released to the public.
Meanwhile, the board is still waiting for a report from State Child Advocate Sarah Eagan who is reviewing whether school officials followed proper procedures and policy in handling the allegations against Chokas. Eagan launched her review shortly after The Day began publishing a series of stories about the complaints in June 2019.
Board of Education Chairwoman Alexa Garvey read Chinni’s report at Thursday’s board meeting just a few minutes before the board’s student representative, high school senior Alexandra Kapell, told the board that “Stonington High School has a massive problem with sexual assault and harassment.”
Kapell, who is also the student government president, told them the high school “perpetuates a culture” that allows for assault and harassment to happen and is why students do not feel comfortable reporting incidents.
Kapell then sent board members a letter on Friday outline her complaints and said she would be submitting the letter to Chinni as well.
Back in February, it was Kapell who urged a divided school board to undertake an independent investigation into how school officials handled the complaints.
Many former students have told The Day that Chokas repeatedly touched female students inappropriately and made inappropriate comments to them dating back to 2004. Many others have posted their complaints about Chokas and school officials on their Facebook and Instagram pages, the Stonington Community Forum Facebook page and in online comments on the numerous stories The Day has published about the controversy.
But Superintendent Van Riley and Principal Mark Friese have testified under oath that the various reports lodged against Chokas by students, referred to in school documents and emails in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019, were not considered complaints but “reports” and “concerns.” This meant complaints were not placed in Chokas’ personnel file and he was never disciplined.
In January 2019, a female student complained to a staff member that Chokas was touching a female classmate and making inappropriate comments to her. That incident led to Chokas being allowed to resign with his full salary of $81,396 and benefits through the end of the school year. The district also agreed not to fire him or disclose any information concerning his employment to anyone, except as required by law.