BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — The original claim, filed in November of 2018, is against the Kenmore Tonawanda Union Free School District alleging claims of Antisemitism.
The filing names Kenmore East High School boys volleyball coach Nick Sereday, Ken-Ton’s athletic director, Jim Badgely, Kenmore East High School assistant principal Joseph Greco and the Ken-Ton District.
7 Eyewitness News received a redacted copy of the claim. It alleges and states coach Sereday “overheard” a discussion of Jewish heritage of a male student in which Sereday remarked “I didn’t know you people played sports!”.
The suit goes on to state Sereday “targeted” the student based on his “religious heritage, repeatedly calling him a ‘little bitch’ and ‘garbage’”. The suit also stated the coach “forced” the student to run laps alone, using profanity and stating the student was quote “not good enough.”
The suit alleges Sereday benched the student and continued the “emotional and psychological abuse”.
The student then quit the volleyball team.
The claim said the parents of the student reported the coach’s behavior and sough intervention from athletic director Badgely, Principal Heyden and assistant principals Greco and Trevor Brown. The complaint states Badgely, Heyden, Greco and Brown ignored the complaints.
It also outlines how the abuse continued, creating a “hostile” environment for the student and retaliation.
"He feels threatened. He doesn’t feel safe. He feels discriminated against. He feels persecuted and he’s a child in a high school environment," stated Frank Housh, attorney for the victim.
Housh filed the complaint.
"You’re a Jewish person at a school. you have a volleyball teacher who tells you – ‘I didn’t know you people played sports." Housh said. People were making holocaust jokes – right after the horrible attacks on the synagogues in Pittsburgh."
The suit was later amended, adding more accusations of Antisemitism saying the student “obtained a copy of a photo” and meme that depicts Sereday holding a volleyball and a caption written stating “Remember Kids, Choose Volleyball and not Jews.”
Ken-Ton District School spokesperson Patrick Fanelli tells 7 Eyewitness News "for all we know this is the first time the coach is seeing this meme". He also stated "I certainly never saw it until I saw it posted on the WKBW website." Finelli also noted the district received calls in "support of the coach."
The Ken-Ton District issued a full statement in response to the complaint saying it has "zero tolerance for harassment, bullying, or discrimination of any kind by students or staff."
The district also said as soon as it learned of the allegations, it hired an investigator to look into the claims. The District said the investigator tried to speak to the plaintiffs, but their attorney, Housh, did not let them.
"Based on all the information gathered as part of the investigation," the statement says "the investigator concluded that the allegations were unfounded."
"They have taken the position that they don’t believe there is any legal liability," remarked Housch.
Housh says he will file the lawsuit as a last resort against the district.
"Because we have simply been unable to find a way to have my client feel safe at Kenmore East," replied Housh.
The Ken-Ton School District has zero tolerance for harassment, bullying, or discrimination of any kind by students or staff. Any allegation of harassment and or discrimination by a member of the staff or a student is taken extremely seriously and investigated exhaustively. If an allegation was found to have merit, the district would take any and all action within its authority to appropriately respond to the allegations. The district's goal is always to create a positive and safe school environment which is free of harassment, bullying, and discrimination.
These allegations originated in fall 2018. The Ken-Ton School District received a letter from the plaintiff's attorney, Frank Housh, raising allegations about district administrators and Coach Sereday, which were later included in a notice of claim. Upon receipt of the letter, the Ken-Ton School District hired an investigator to thoroughly investigate all of the allegations. The investigator tried to speak to the plaintiffs, but his attorney did not allow them to do so. Based on all the information gathered as part of the investigation, the investigator concluded that the allegations were unfounded. The district emphatically denies the claims that have been made about its district staff and administrators.
The allegations about Coach Sereday have been thoroughly investigated and at no time throughout the course of this investigation has the district found any cause or need to place Coach Sereday on leave or be subject to disciplinary action.
The district also noted Coach Sereday was previously a lifeguard and a substitute teacher for the district., but it he is now employed by Global Concepts Charter School, however, he continues to serve as the volleyball coach.