At Thursday’s Board of Education meeting, chair Joe Kelly said for the sake of transparency he would ask the superintendent to provide an update on the Jeremy Boland investigation.
Back in August Project Veritas published the first video in a series titled “The Secret Curriculum.” It featured Mr. Boland, an assistant principal at Cos Cob School, who was filmed without his knowledge talking to a woman about his hiring biases. The video is labeled July 2022.
The story quickly made local and national headlines.
In the heavily edited video, Boland talked about his hiring preferences. “…if they’re Catholic – conservative…You don’t hire them.” And: “If someone is raised hardcore Catholic, it’s like, they’re brainwashed – you can never change their mindset.”
The day after the video was released, Greenwich Schools Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones emailed Greenwich Schools families to say Mr. Boland had been placed on administrative leave. She asked families to respect the district’s investigation process.
On Thursday, Mr. Kelly said, “I know we’re restricted on what we can and cannot say based on the number of investigations going on. I know you contacted our attorney to make sure what you say is what you can say. I don’t want any more than what you’re allowed to say.”
Dr. Jones explained, for the benefit of the community, that any time there is a personnel issue dealing with a teacher, “You always have to go into it thinking it could rise to the level of a termination hearing. And this board must be neutral going into that hearing, which means when you have an active investigation you can’t go out and say exactly what is happening.”
Currently there are several active investigations including one announced on Sept 1, 2022 by Attorney General Tong using his Civil Rights authority. In mid-September, an exchange of letters between CT Deputy Associate Attorney General Gregory O’Connell and Project Veritas made headlines.
Mr. O’Connell wrote to the founder of Project Veritas James O’Keefe saying, “This letter is your notice to preserve all material potentially relevant to this investigation. You must take immediate action to prevent the deletion or spoliation of any such material. We anticipate issuing subpoenas for relevant material.”
“If our investigation substantiates a pattern or practice of illegal conduct, we may initiate appropriate litigation to enforce federal and state law,” O’Connell added.
In response, on behalf of Project Veritas, Paul Calli of Calli Law, wrote back, saying the threat to subpoena Project Veritas violated the freedom of the press, and citing protections for journalists under CT’s “Shield Law,” he said Project Veritas would not comply.
By the end of October the topic of Mr. Boland and the investigations had fallen out of the headlines.
Dr. Jones explained she limited as to what she could say about the Boland investigation, but she noted the Attorney General’s investigation was ongoing and they had requested more documents from Greenwich as recently as the previous day.
“We’ve sent them thousands of pages,” Jones said. “CHRO is also still in an active investigation – thousands (of pages).”
In addition to the district’s and the attorney general’s investigation, Jones said the Town of Greenwich was also launching an investigation.
“The Town of Greenwich is just starting this week. That will be some sort of data pull – we’re not sure, it’s not clear yet,” she said, adding that there was yet another investigation – a fifth investigation – which is being conducted by the CT State Dept of Education.
“Until all four of those conclude, we don’t know what they are going to find, and will all four of those actually agree with one another?” Jones said. “Until those are completed, that is about as much as we can say.”
Mr. Kelly said, “There are legal minds evaluating our options and deciding, if we speed or hurry to a conclusion or to an action, it could be financially detrimental to our town. There are groups of people, professionals, evaluating how we should proceed.”
Dr. Jones said Greenwich Schools had concluded its investigation in the matter of Mr. Boland, and it had been shared with the other agencies.
Karen Kowalski asked if there was a precedent for multiple doing parallel investigations.
In this matter, there are five separate investigations: Greenwich Schools, Town of Greenwich, Attorney General’s office, CHRO and the State of CT Education Department.
“I’ve never seen this before,” Jones said. “Any time you go to a termination hearing, they are very lengthy, very time consuming for all of you. And they are very expensive. You need attorneys at the table. You need hearing officers. Investing a half a million dollars to go to a termination hearing – because you don’t know what the results will be. Three or four organizations come back and say your initial investigation was not correct, then you’re in a whole other legal issue. It’s consulting with attorneys to make sure that what we’re doing – we’re trying to protect the interests of the district and make sure that investigations are very thorough. This is a very unusual situation.”
Mr. Kelly asked Dr. Jones whether she felt the district was adequately represented by town counsel.
“Or if you think we are not, whether we should go out and getting further advice,” Kelly said.
“We do that in coordination with the town, and we have outside counsel working on this,” Jones said.
Mr. Kelly then asked for an update on the investigation of GHS math teacher Nicholas Skirkanich.
Mr. Skirkanich was charged in December 2022 by federal criminal complaint with possession of child pornography.
The charge was announced by Vanessa Roberts Avery, US Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Matthew Millhollin from Homeland Security Investigations.
As alleged in court documents, in October 2022, an online service provider submitted a CyberTip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (“NCMEC”) indicating that a TikTok video containing child sex abuse imagery was sent from Skirkanich’s email account to another email account. Subsequent investigation revealed that Skirkanich’s IP address and social media accounts were also used to facilitate Skirkanich’s possession of child pornography.
Possession of child pornography is an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years. The complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt.
Dr. Jones explained, “The first action was through Homeland Security, and from a district standpoint, when you have any sort of federal agency, and sometimes a local police department, if it’s not Greenwich Police, we don’t know either. We find out about these things pretty much at the same time the community does.”
“Until the investigative report comes out, you don’t really know what’s happening,” Jones added. “They didn’t share either with the Greenwich Police Dept. They didn’t know this arrest was going to be made.”
Dr. Jones said the district was working with outside counsel on the advice of local counsel “to take the right steps at the right time.”
“I think transparency is quite important,” Mr. Kelly said.