Leeds Morelli & Brown PC Files Federal Law Suit Seeking Reinstatement of Kings Park High School Scholar-Athlete

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A federal court lawsuit filed in New York alleges a high school athlete and honor student in Kings Park, NY, was unfairly punished for her involvement in an alcohol-related incident. The suit alleges the punishment doled out to Nina Ottaviano--a 2-day suspension and a bar from all extracurricular activities for a year--was harsher than punishments given to football players and students related to school board members for similar infractions.

Leeds Morelli & Brown, PC, the New York area law firm, has filed a federal court suit on behalf of the star goalie of King Park High School’s girls soccer team in a bid to have her reinstated to the team as well as to the girls basketball team and other extracurricular activities.

John Ottaviano, the father of Nina Ottoviano, 17, a senior, is the plaintiff in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip, NY (Index no. 10-4962). The suit alleges school officials discriminated against his daughter when they barred her from playing during her senior year after she admitted her involvement in an alcohol-related incident. The suit alleges the district’s action violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Nina, who according to court papers also plays basketball, is an honor society member and editor of the school paper, claims that the district’s action “has destroyed her prospects of being accepted to colleges on an athletic scholarship or recruited by various top colleges …” She is applying to various competitive colleges.

The suit alleges Nina was punished more severely than other students involved in the incident at the school’s senior banquet in September. Nina, according to the suit, admitted she provided a classmate with alcohol before the party. The other student was caught and Nina later told the principal that she had supplied the alcohol to the friend. She was suspended from school for two days and has been banned from participating in any extra-curricular activities for the remainder of her tenure at Kings Park High School. Appeals to the district superintendent and the school board were unsuccessful.

The suit alleges the school board’s action was taken "with malicious and bad faith intent to injure Nina.”

Moreover, the suit claims, there is a disparity in the way Nina was treated by the school and the way football players and others involved in alcohol-related incidents have been disciplined.

“Nina’s excessive punishment, and the consequences it has on her future career, is far more severe than those punishments issued by the district for similar and/or more severe infractions,” court documents allege. “In fact, no student has ever been subjected to this type of discipline, despite the fact that many other students, including various male athletes and children of school board members, have engaged in similar conduct.”

The suit further stated: “While the consumption by and distribution of alcohol to minors is a serious issue, there exits no rational basis by which Nina should be singled out and branded with a scarlet letter. Such an extreme punishment, based one alleged incident of a lack of judgment will irreparably damage Nina’s future.”

School officials, according to the suit, cited a zero tolerance policy toward alcohol use for justifying Nina’s punishment. The suit claims that the school has numerous published, overlapping and contradictory policies regarding alcohol and discipline.

The suit alleges the disciplinary actions involving Nina “were arbitrarily and capriciously chosen to enforce the most extreme policies in Nina’s case over others that allow for lesser penalties.” Court papers described the less several penalties doled out to other students involved in other alcohol-related incidents, including team keg parties and drinking on school grounds.

In addition to the district, the suit names superintendent Susan Agruso, principal Lino Bracco, board president William Motherway and board members Marie Goldstein, Steve Weber, Tom Locascio and Liz Barrett.

The suit seeks to overturn the ban on Nina’s extracurricular activities and unspecified damages. A jury trial is requested. The case has been assigned to Senior U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt and U.S. Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson.

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