Miller Place school board President Mike Unger broke his silence four weeks after a student announced he would sue the school for allegedly violating his first amendment rights.
At the school board meeting on April 29, Unger took a minute to comment on the situation, which stemmed from the high school’s variety show back in March. During the show, Kyle Vetrano, senior class president, appeared in a skit poking fun at the high school’s bathroom policy, which allows one student at a time to use the facilities in an effort to combat drug use and sales. According to the senior, he improvised the line that later got him into trouble.
“Is this what our superintendent gets paid all that money for? To write bathroom policy,” Vetrano said in the act.
Vetrano was not allowed to participate in the next performance and was banned from school grounds during the second show, as the line was not included in the pre-approved script.
On April 2, the Vetrano family, his lawyer John Ray, of Miller Place-based Ray, Mitev and Associates, students and community members held a rally in support of Vetrano outside the high school and announced their plan to sue. The crowd also marched toward the district office where Ray and his associate served the district with a notice of claim, which must be filed before a municipality or municipal agency — like a school district — can be sued, according to state law.
While Superintendent Marianne Higuera sent out a letter to residents that addressed the incident, the school board has stayed mum.
At the April 29 meeting, Unger described the family as “seekers of 15 minutes of fame” and described Higuera as “the rock of this district.” He said he admired her strength and praised her and the rest of the high school administration for how they handled the situation.
“While I’m not supposed to comment on recent litigious events, I want to state that I support the actions of our high school administration and Dr. Higuera 100 percent,” Unger said to a round of applause from attendees.
The school district has 90 days after receiving the claim to conduct a 50-h hearing, which is similar to a deposition. After 30 days, the complainant has a right to proceed with the lawsuit.
As of Monday, the district had yet to request the hearing Ray said in a phone interview, adding that while he could proceed with the suit, he plans on waiting until the 90-day deadline.
Ray said that while the school can specify a wrong doing on Vetrano’s part all they want, there isn’t one. He said Vetrano is an American citizen and has a right to free speech.
“It’s an arbitrary rule by the district,” Ray said regarding the bathroom policy. “That person [Vetrano] has a duty, a high duty, to take the district to court and right the wrong.”