LITCHFIELD, Conn., May 21, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — The Gunnery Incorporated (“The Gunnery”) breached its contract with a student plaintiff by arbitrarily and capriciously expelling him without following its own rules set forth in its Disciplinary System, alleges a lawsuit filed on March 11, 2020, which was responded to by the defense in a motion to dismiss filed on May 15, 2020, in the Judicial District of Litchfield, Connecticut. The Gunnery is an elite co-educational boarding and day school based in Washington, CT and founded in 1850. This announcement comes from Allen Law Firm and The Law Offices of James C. Wing Jr.
At issue is an exchange that took place when Noah Greenberg (“Plaintiff”) of New York City, an 18-year-old senior at The Gunnery last fall, and co-captain of the football team, was playing in the final game of the season against the Millbrook School in New York on November 9, 2019. At the end of the first quarter, trailing by 40 points and concerned about his safety and that of his fellow players, Greenberg suggested a change of plays to the head coach, who often asked members of the team for real time feedback. “What we are doing is just not working,” said Greenberg. The Gunnery Head Football Coach, Steve Gritti, then ordered the Plaintiff to “take off your damn pads.” He added: “You’re done!”
With adrenaline flowing and shocked at the coach’s decision to kick him out of the game, Greenberg uttered a curse word at the coach. Although Greenberg was sent back into the game in the fourth quarter, this single curse began a chain of events ultimately leading to his expulsion from the school six days later, on November 15, 2019, in the middle of his senior year and in the midst of his college application process.
The Plaintiff was sent to a Disciplinary Committee for use of Offensive Language, where the lawsuit alleges that he received a punishment that was wildly disproportional. The Gunnery was in the midst of a spree of expulsions last fall, kicking or forcing out more than a dozen students, including Greenberg, whom The Gunnery condemned as a “destructive influence.” Ironically, The Gunnery’s Student Handbook assigns only one “disciplinary point” for the use of “offensive language,” and it ordinarily takes over 30 “points” to warrant anything close to expulsion. Under school regulations, the Complaint alleges that The Gunnery did not follow its own disciplinary rules.
“I’ve represented families for four decades, and this ranks as one of the most egregious and unfair expulsions I’ve seen in my legal career,” said attorney James C. Wing Jr. of Simsbury, CT, who joined Michael Thad Allen of Quaker Hill, CT in filing the Complaint, which details the lopsided and inconsistently applied hearing process that presumes a student’s guilt before making any determination on the merits.
Other salient points in the lawsuit, include:
Overcoming Disabilities: Greenberg has been previously diagnosed with a learning disability and had attended his first high school under an IEP (individualized educational program). The Plaintiff was struggling to overcome learning disabilities, and when enrolled in The Gunnery he aspired to be “mainstreamed” and an accepted member of the community. His admission was contingent on a neuropsychological evaluation demanded by The Gunnery, which also required him to repeat 10th grade and attend extra tutoring, which brought tuition and other expenses to approximately $80,000 per year. When Greenberg was expelled in his third year, he was earning all A’s and B’s and no longer required additional academic support.
Berated by Coach: Among the duties that The Gunnery assumed was the duty to keep the Plaintiff free of discrimination on the basis of his disability. Nevertheless, Coach Gritti flung numerous verbal assaults against Greenberg, including asking the Plaintiff repeatedly in front of the team: “What, are you stupid?” Gritti also labeled the Plaintiff “dumb,” “a b****,” “a moron,” “an idiot,” and a “wus.” Coach Gritti also told Plaintiff — in the company of other players, as well as berating him in front of other parents at athletic events — that he “would never be a success in life,” and “your parents are successful why aren’t you?” Additionally, Coach Gritti repeatedly called the Plaintiff “Goldberg” over three seasons, despite knowing that his name was Greenberg.
“I might not have been perfect and was sometimes impulsive, but I was improving in the classroom, on the field, and gaining respect among my peers, while always practicing honesty – one of the key values The Gunnery espouses. I apologized to the coach, numerous faculty members, along with students,” according to Greenberg, who was a three-sport athlete, also playing basketball and baseball, and was named a school tour guide in September. “I kept my head down and kept playing when Coach berated me over three seasons, and when he kicked me out of my final game and I talked back, it doesn’t just end my high school playing career but gets me kicked out of school.”
Family feels mistreated: The Greenberg family alleges that Noah Greenberg has suffered significant emotional damage by, among other things, the loss of his tuition, his separation from The Gunnery Community, the delay and impairment of his future education, and other direct and indirect damages to be proven at trial.
“What was on track to be a success story for student and school alike, was upended in the middle of his senior year,” said father Marco Greenberg. “The fault lies with a vindictive football coach and a head of school, who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk.”
“Within one week they turned on us, heartlessly and ruthlessly, despite our literal begging for a lesser punishment. Although we have ‘moved on’, we feel we have an obligation to make current and future Gunnery families aware of this outrage,” continued Greenberg.
In response to the Plaintiffs’ Complaint, The Gunnery filed a motion to dismiss on May 15. The motion, which is available in the public domain, includes a litany of The Gunnery’s alleged past dissatisfactions with Greenberg, which the school lumps into a category that it describes as “negative or disruptive behavior.” Among the revelations the school included in the legal document…
- Boasting of Number of Expulsions: Craig Badger, associate dean disclosed, “during the 2018-2019 school year … there were eight disciplinary committees convened. Seven resulted in dismissal.” Then, the next year, The Gunnery exceeded even this: “In the 2019-2020 school year, there were ten disciplinary committees convened… of those, nine resulted in dismissals.” (Note, this is out of some 300 students and does not include additional students who faced disciplinary charges and withdrew, rather than subject themselves to the disciplinary committee, or those who withdrew for other reasons. These families then forfeit their tuition for the remainder of the academic year.)
- Accusing Greenberg of Being “Aggressive” in Sports: The motion has at least 13 references to Noah Greenberg being too “aggressive” and “intimidating” against “often physically smaller players” during athletic competitions. Yet Noah Greenberg is average size, 5’9 and weighing only 171 pounds upon his expulsion in November.
- Attacking Student for Online Petition: The Gunnery court papers also attack Greenberg for “sexism, ageism, and classism” because he circulated “a petition that would allow students to take as much food as they wanted without having to go back up for seconds,” in The Gunnery cafeteria. The Gunnery construes this as “disrespectful” and “disruptive to the School” and alleges that Plaintiff maligned a dining hall employee, who refused to give students extra helpings of food, by calling her “nice” immediately followed by “elderly lady.”
According to attorney Michael Thad Allen, “The Gunnery’s motion to dismiss adds insult to injury and is a 236-page assault on a young man’s character, who, while his friends are preparing to graduate, has been a full-time essential worker during the COVID-19 crisis at a grocery market. It’s shameful that an elite school would go to such extremes, and the associated expense, to undermine a former student’s reputation and cover up their own inappropriate and troubling behavior.”
Contact: Mark Goldman
Goldman McCormick PR
Media Relations Specialist
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SOURCE Allen Law Firm; The Law Offices of James C. Wing Jr.