Statement from the Board of Education on January 24, 2024
Board of Education Statement
January 24, 2024
In October 2020, a lawsuit was filed by a former Nyack High School student against the Nyack School District alleging that 23 or more years ago a volunteer assistant baseball coach, Peter Recla, sexually abused the Plaintiff between 1996 and 2000. Mr. Recla has not served as a coach in the District since the spring 2007.
In May 2022, the matter was amicably resolved by the parties. Since the District’s insurance policy did not require the District’s consent to resolve the lawsuit, there was no authorization or approval sought from the Nyack Board/District. As such, the decision to resolve the lawsuit was made solely by the District’s insurance carrier.
In January/February 2023, two former students from in or about the late 1990s sent emails to certain Board Members in which they sought the removal of various recognitions in the memory of Dave Siegriest the then (now deceased) physical education teacher/head baseball coach as a result of the alleged wrongdoing by Mr. Recla. In response, we asked the attorney for the Board/District to conduct an investigation into whether or not the head coach knew or should have known of the alleged sexual abuse.
Due to the nature of the allegations against Mr. Recla, an initial step taken by the Board was referring the matter to the Clarkstown Police in April 2023 since the district does not conduct criminal child abuse investigations. The Board paused our investigation at that time so as to not interfere with the police. In June 2023, the Clarkstown Police informed the District’s attorney that the investigation was on hold and the matter was considered closed until any survivors came forward. To date, there have been no criminal charges filed or prosecuted as a result. We continue to encourage anyone who believes they are a survivor to contact Detective Chazan at the Clarkstown Police Department.
The attorney for the Board/District subsequently resumed his investigation. The Board’s attorney interviewed twenty-seven individuals. These interviews were conducted with former students, parents, community members, former teachers, administrators and coaches. In addition, the attorney for the Board/District had several brief telephone conversations with other former students and administrators, reviewed relevant records and also received over 100 communications sent to the Board from individuals providing their input on these matters. The information gathered through this investigation was shared with the Board over many months in executive session for the Board’s evaluation. This investigation is now complete.
We have been informed by the attorney for the Board/District that, based on the totality of the investigation, he cannot conclude with a reasonable degree of certainty that Mr. Siegriest knew or should have known of the alleged abuse. However, we, as a Board, seek the highest standards of excellence. The Board believes that anyone the District memorializes must be beyond reproach. Based on all of the information we have taken into consideration, concerns have arisen for this Board as to whether Mr. Siegriest met these standards.
Therefore, the Board voted on a resolution on January 23, 2024 that removed the name of Mr. Siegriest and all references to him from certain District facilities as well as cease the operation of certain District endeavors/events referring to Mr. Siegriest.
We would like our community to know that the Board appreciates, and takes very seriously, the many communications we received on both sides of this issue. Every Board Member thoroughly read every communication, knowing that it impacts many people deeply. We hope our community can heal and move forward together.
The health, safety and social/emotional wellbeing of our students is, and always will be, our first priority. We believe the adults in our buildings are responsible for the safety of all children in the District when in our care and expect all of our staff to ensure that students are free from any form of abuse or maltreatment. We, as a Board, will continue to review our policies and practices.
We understand that the painful effects of trauma can be lasting and be exacerbated by the silence and shame that so often surrounds incidents of child sexual abuse. We hope for the healing of anyone directly or indirectly impacted by any incidents of this nature.
Nyack Schools expresses its concern for any survivors of child sexual abuse and offers the following resources for anyone who may need them at Center for Safety & Change or 845.634.3344 for their 24 hour hotline.