Baron seeks disclosure of VCSD bullying investigation; district claims findings are protected by state and federal law

NEW SCOTLAND — It now seems odd that Robert Baron’s lawyers had to request from the Voorheesville Central School District the results of an investigation into allegations of players on his girls’ basketball team bullying each other when, according to the district, Baron already has the uncanny ability to get his hands on certain confidential documents related to the investigation. 

In a September court filing, Baron’s lawyers, after repeated written requests and an in-person conference with the judge overseeing the case, again requested from the district the results of the confidential player-bullying investigation.

The district arrived at the conclusion that no bullying had taken place after not one but two separate investigations into the alleged incident, the basis of which, the district asserts in its Oct. 8 court filing, had been a complaint emailed to the school district in June 2018, seven months after Baron had resigned as head coach of the girls’ varsity basketball team. 

And since the investigation was conducted after Baron’s November 2017 resignation, the district objected to handing over any findings because “absolutely nothing learned by the District … could have influenced [its] decision-making process as it concerned Baron’s employment, as that decision-making process took place long  before the DASA complaint was even received.”

DASA is a reference to the state’s Dignity for All Students Act, which requires, among other things, that schools collect and report data regarding incidents of discrimination, harassment, and bullying.

The district further states in its October court filing that Baron’s September request should be denied because he’s seeking “to compel” the disclosure of a confidential investigation that had been triggered by a complaint filed under the Dignity for All Students Act, whose “process,” the district states, “is a confidential one that implicates the privacy interests of students.”

And because of the confidential nature of the DASA process, the district, in its Oct. 8 court filing, claims “there is nothing that Baron can hope to uncover through disclosure of any DASA materials that could possibly lend support to his position in this action. Simply put, the DASA investigation is completely irrelevant to the issues in this case…”

In a June 2018 affidavit, Baron stated that it had been reported to him that two players had been bullying other players on the girls’ varsity basketball team, which by that time was being coached by Andrew Karins. 

An unredacted version of Baron’s personnel file revealed for the first time that the two players accused of bullying their teammates were also the same players who had been the “primary complainants against him” in November 2017, according to Baron’s September court filing.

The two players graduated from Voorheesville in June 2018.

Baron previously stated in court papers that the information contained in the bullying investigation — information that had been “solely within the possession of the District” — had, in fact, been “directly related to, involved, and concerned” his “separation from employment,” which, he claimed, is why the district was required to disclose its contents.

Baron’s September court filing also states that, in addition to several of the bullying allegations relating to or referencing Baron directly, some of the alleged bullying took place during Baron’s tenure coach. One bullying example cited in the September court filing is a picture of a sign that had been placed at the home of a player and parents supportive of Baron which said, “F*** Baron.” 

The district also states in its October court filing that, in addition to protection under state law, both “the substance of the DASA complaint” and the ensuing investigation into the complaint “qualifies as confidential student information under ... the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act.”

But in an Oct. 15 court filing, Baron’s lawyer, Harold Gordon, refutes this point, and writes that both Baron and school district had “previously entered a Stipulation of Confidentiality and Protective Order,” the purpose of which, Gordon claims, already addressed the state- and federal-confidentiality concerns that the school district, in its Oct. 8 court filing, used as justification for not handing over the results of the bullying investigation. 

The school district also makes the assertion in its Oct. 8 court filing that Baron had “somehow obtained a copy of the confidential DASA complaint from a source other than the District or its attorneys,” further stating that Baron had included as part of the discovery process a copy of the confidential complaint “straight from his own email account.”

The district then lobs, what could be considered, a rather explosive allegation.

Stating that, since both Baron and his lawyers appeared to have known about the bullying complaint from the start, and given that Baron had produced the confidential DASA documents from his own email account, and considering that  the girls accused of bullying also happen to be the same players who reported Baron to the district — which, according to Baron, forced his fraudulent resignation — “it[’s] not a stretch to infer that Baron and his attorneys assisted in the preparation of the [DASA] complaint or otherwise instigated its filing.”

Baron, in his Oct. 15 court filing, calls this “supposition” both “untrue” and “manifestly unfair.”

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