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How could unfounded allegation now become indictable offense at School 67?

   When a teacher reported seeing her aide fondle an autistic kindergarten student in the lavatory of Buffalo's Discovery School 67 last  November, school officials ruled the allegations unfounded.

   But an Erie County grand jury took a far more serious view of the incident.

   The teacher's aide, John Colazzi, was charged Wednesday with felony sexual abuse, a charge that can bring a prison term of up to seven years upon conviction.

   There were other developments after the incident came to light in Buffalo News stories.

   Joy Trotter was dismissed as the school district's director of human resources for bungling the internal investigation. Superintendent James A. Williams admitted receiving a certified letter from the teacher, but said he passed it on unopened to a staff member.

   The boy's parents and law enforcement officers were not notified of the incident for nearly four months. In the meantime, Colazzi was allowed to remain in the same classroom, with the pupil he allegedly fondled and the teacher who reported it.

   School district officials wouldn't answer questions Wednesday, saying the case will be decided in the courts. But District Attorney Frank J. Clark said he plans to prepare a report documenting how the school system "broke down" in handling the case.

   What happened here?

   How could school officials and the district attorney reach such dramatically different conclusions? Did the school district make a good faith effort to examine the case, or simply
sweep it under the carpet?

   … Peter Simon



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