UPDATE: Former NRHS Cheerleading Head Coach Chrissy Stanionis, through her attorney states:
"The current squad is subject to a ban of all post season competitions, not explicitly the NYSPHSAA competition to be held in March 2018, the squad would have to qualify for the NYSPHSAA competition as a matter of course."
EDITOR’S NOTE: Repeated attempts through media inquiries and Freedom of Information requests to clarify the nature and extent of the “suspension” of ”ban” with officials from the NYSPHSAA, Section 1/Southern Westchester BOCES and the City School District of New Rochelle were repeatedly stonewalled over the past year. Six months ago we asked New Rochelle Athletic Director Steve Young to confirm information we received from a “Cheerleading parent” that the team was ”barred from all postseason competition for two years. ( '17-18 and '18-19 seasons). That would exclude them from sectionals and states." Young would only say “not two years” and refused to elaborate further. Other sources at the state level would only say on background the team was “barred“ from the state championships. BOCES refused to answer questions or provide any records under FOIL. We have never understood why the incident last March, the resulting disciplinary process, whatever ban or bar or suspension was handed down and by whom (we still do not know for sure which body made the decision although the NYSPHSAA has been adamant that it was not them and directed our inquiries to SWBOCES). As these are public schools and state agencies and action was taken against a sports team as a whole not individuals (so there is no personal privacy issue) we see no reason for the full story and related records (with individual names redacted if appropriate under the FOIL law). We will continue to pursue both the story and the records. We have made a new approach to SWBOCES seeking answers and records.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- The 2018 New York State Public High School Athletic Association Cheerleading Championship will take place at the SRC Arena & Events Center in Syracuse, NY on Saturday, March 3. The New Rochelle High School Girls Cheerleading team will not be there.
The squad was banned from competition for one year following an incident at last years's NYSPHSAA event. New Rochelle Athletic Director Steve Young confirmed the one year ban to Talk of the Sound in an email.
According to several sources familiar with the incident, some members of the team, upset that New Rochelle came in third in their division, stole t-shirts meant for the team from Greece Athena High School, the first place team.
Event staff came onto the team bus to confront the students and demand the t-shirts be returned. Initially, the students denied stealing the t-shirts. After event staff persisted the shirts were returned by being thrown at the event staff.
Compounding matters, when a meeting was held by sports officials to determine disciplinary action, no one from the City School District of New Rochelle responded. A letter was sent to Young but he did not reply, according to sources familiar with the incident. According to this same source, Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne learned of the disciplinary meeting after it had occurred. He sent a reply anyway to no effect and the ban went into effect.
A dirty little secret of the New Rochelle High School Cheerleading Team, which had a remarkable record under Head Coach Chrissy Stanionis, long-time former coach, is that Stanionis used a quirk in the rules to compete against smaller schools, racking up victories facing off against schools less than half the size of New Rochelle High School, in some cases one-third the size.
Competitive cheerleading in New York State is broken into two divisions within each division there is a small and large Class based upon team size: Small 5-16 and Large 17- 32. Division I is 750 and above and Division II is 749 and below.
Despite being one of the largest high schools in New York State, New Rochelle High School competes in “Division I - Small”.
The top finishers in the 2017 NYSPHSAA Cheerleading Champions Division I - Small were:
1. Greece-Athena High School
2. Wantagh Senior High School
3. New Rochelle High School
4. Rush-Henrietta Senior High School
5. Union-Endicott High School
According to the 2017 U.S. News & World Report, the number of enrolled students at those schools were:
- Greece-Athena High School 1,192
- Wantagh Senior High School 1,081
- New Rochelle High School 3,413
- Rush-Henrietta Senior High School 1,259
- Union-Endicott High School 1,167
According to New York State Education Department data, New Rochelle High School is among the Top 5 largest high schools in the state:
Biggest Schools - Top 5
BRENTWOOD HIGH SCHOOL 4589
NEW ROCHELLE HIGH SCHOOL2567
NEWBURGH FREE ACADEMY 2516
SHENENDEHOWA HIGH SCHOOL 2411
ARLINGTON HIGH SCHOOL2242
LONGWOOD HIGH SCHOOL 2068
Chrissy Stanionis was suspended in December 2016 by AD Steve Young for unstated reasons. She was separated from employment by the District in May 2017. According to knowledgeable sources, there were significant financial irregularities with the Program.
CORRECTION: Chrissy Stanionis was not "separated from employment by the District in May 2017” as she originally told Talk of the Sound. She was fired by Steve Young on April 21, 2017.”
New Rochelle High School Cheerleading “Coach of the Year” Out as Athletic Department Financial Fraud Investigation Expands http://www.newrochelletalk.com/content/new-rochelle-high-school-cheerlea...
UPDATE: Chrissy Stanionis has engaged an attorney to demand this article be taken down from Talk of the Sound. Below is the email from Christopher James Berlingieri, Esq. of Berlingieri Law, PLL with an office at 244 Fifth Avenue, Suite F27 New York, New York 10001T: 347.766.5185 F: 914.730.104 E: [email protected]:
My name is Christopher James Berlingieri. I am an attorney contacting you on behalf of my client Ms. Christine Stanionis. Attached to this email is my client’s takedown/cease and desist letter, the libelous posted article and a link to your twitter post.
This letter is on its way to your mailing address via certified mail and first class mail. This electronic copy of the letter is a courtesy copy for your convenience. Please read the letter and respond accordingly.
I will await your response.
Via Certified Mail, First Class and Email
Chrissy Stanionis - Cease and Desist and Request to Take Down January 26, 2017 Article
ATTN: Robert Cox Talk of the Sound (www.talkofthesound.com) 173 Mount Joy Place New Rochelle, NY 10801
robertcox @talkofthe sound. com
Dear Mr. Cox:
My firm represents Ms. Chrissy Stanionis and hereby demands that (1) you immediately take down the article vou authored and posted on talkofthesound.com on January 26, 2018"http:i/www.newrochelletalk.com/content/sore-losers-new-rochelle-high-schoolchee... and posts with links on social media including but not limited to twitter.com and facebook.com and (2) you immediately cease and desist all actions to defame or otherwise suggest misconduct or breach of fiduciary duties bv my client related to her tenure as head-coach. If you do not take it down, my client intends to file an action seeking an injunction and other equitable relief in Westchester County Supreme Court and assert causes of action for libel. Further, should you keep this article up, my client will seek to hold you responsible for conspiring with others in order to cast her in this fraudulent light. Please contact the undersigned upon receipt of this letter; otherwise my firm will be left no other recourse but to commence legal preparations to seek an injunction and hold you liable for my client's extensive damages, costs and attorneys' fees. The contents of this letter are highly confidential, do not attempt to share, publicize or disseminate this letter and/or its contents to any persons other than legal counsel. Please preserve my client's archived electronic data, we will vigorously hold you accountable for any attempts to destroy and/or alter or delete any evidence.
Christopher James Berlingieri, Esq.
Berlingieri Law, PLLC
No need to wait for me to receive a hard copy of your threat letter.
My response is you should study up on defamation law before you send threat letters on the subject.
I developed a course on this subject with Harvard Law School and MediaPro Insurance a few years ago. You can read about it here:
The course is free so by all means take the course and learn more.
I am curious how you imagine a journalist enters into a “conspiracy” by reporting out a story so I look forward to reading the claim you have threatened to file with great interest.
I am especially interested in your concept of “fraudulent light” a legal term new to me. It leaves me wondering if you mean “false light” in which case you may be sorry to hear that there is no such “false light” statute in New York State. I believe there is one in Tennessee or Kentucky, for future reference.
It has been a day since the article was published so I am amazed to hear your client has suffered some financial harm, a predicate for a defamation case.
All that said, my favorite part is where you claim a letter you sent to me cannot be published. I would figure you would know that once you sent me the letter it is my letter and I am free to do with it as I please. In fact, I have already published the letter.
On a personal note, I want to thank you for taking the time to help raise awareness of my reporting on the New Rochelle High School Cheerleading Team. I have more articles coming and I look forward to your active participation in the promotion campaign. I expect the discovery process will yield many useful documents in this regard.
Finally, if your client has some specific demand for a correction she should have made it already as her making such a complaint would also be a predicate for a cause of action and defamation case. I would also note there’s a comment section below the article which affords her or any other reader the opportunity to update or correct or clarify information in the story. Her failure to take advantage of that opportunity would also mitigate against defamation claim. Much of this is made clear in the course I developed referenced above.
Publisher and Managing Editor
Talk of the Sound"
We got another email and letter tonight. Here they are along with my replies.
"Please see attached correspondence on behalf of my client Chrissy Stanionis.
Christopher J. Berlingieri, Esq.
Berlingieri Law, PLLC
Chrissy Stanionis -Demand for Correction / Intent to Sue
Dear Mr. Cox:
As you know, my firm represents Ms. Chrissy Stanionis in response to your false statements, provided to you from your anonymous "knowledgeable sources", as published in your January 26, 2018 article, Ms. Stanionis demands the removal of the false statements in your article and states the following material facts for the record:
1. Ms. Stanionis was not "suspended in December 2016 by AD Steve Young for unstated reasons." ln fact, the New Rochelle School District has never formally Suspended her as a coach.
2. Ms. Stanionis was not "separated from employment by the District in May 2017." In fact, Athletic Director ('AD") Steve Young terminated Ms, Stanionis' employment as New Rochelle's Cheerleading head coach effective April 21,2017.
3. Ms. Stanionis had no part in the so called "significant financial irregularities with the Program." Your statements here are contradictory because you previously quote Ms. Stanionis in your May 2, 2017 article stating:
"Stanionis said she was unaware of any financial issues. She added the her program is funded by a seperate 501(c)(3).
It should be noted that Ms. Stanionis is a victim of wage theft due to AD Steve Young's former secretary Marisol Martell's paycheck fraud resulting in thc District's failure to pay Ms. Stanionis for least eight (8) paychecks of coaching salary to date.
4. In your futile attempt to delegitimize the multiple championship victories of Ms.Stanionis' past New Rochelle HS Cheerleading squads, Ms. Stanionis did not use a "quirk in the rules to compete against smaller schools, racking up victories facing off against schools less than half the size of New Rochelle High School, in some cases one-third the size." Each and every victory and entry to compete was permissible according to rules of each respective competition, no so called "quirk" was used.
5. Regarding your attempts to defame the current (2017-2018) New Rochelle Cheerleading squad, they are not "banned from competition for one year following an incident at last year's NYSPHSAA event." The current squad is subject to a ban of all post season competitions, not explicitly the NYSPHSAA competition to be held in March 2018, the squad would have to qualify for the NYSPHSAA competition as a matter of course. Making matters worse, you rely on anonymous sources and your only named source is AD Steve Young, a person with a known bias towards Ms. Stanionis. If you do not take the article down or fail to make the corrections based in light of the above material facts, my client intends to file an action by way of order to show cause seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction from your publication of the January 26, 2018 article, and other equitable relief in Westchester County Supreme Court and to assert causes of action against you and your publication for libel per se. Further, my client's damages are presumed because your published defamation is libel per se regarding my client's professional reputation as a cheerleading coach. Please take the proper actions to avoid unnecessary litigation, correct your serious factual errors and address the issues raised above otherwise your actions will be considered to be malicious. Be advised that any further attempts by you to defame my client will be taken very seriously. Please be guided accordingly."
As is always the case, I am always quite happy to review and correct any article I write. It is unfortunate for you and your client that neither of you thought to simply pick up the telephone and discuss your concerns like adults.
I will review your letter and make any appropriate updates if warranted. In fact, I will publish your letter in toto.
I will do my best to put her/your version of events into the article as presented in your letter so my readers can read them and make their own judgement. If you have any other information or comments I would accept that as well.
That is entirely different than your blowhard (and bogus) claims of defamation sent yesterday which would require things like identifying the actual information, asking for a correction or otherwise availing yourself of opportunities to “correct” what you believe is in need of correction, malice, financial harm, etc.
There is no defamation here so please skip the part where you THREATEN such litigation. Do not waste my time talking to me about defamation lawsuits; just go to court and file your claim.
It will go nowhere, waste the court’s time, get us way deep into discovery to my benefit, and involve the school district which is not known for expediting litigation. And your client can expect a counter-claim from me and all that it entails. In the meantime, I will be publishing stories about the case. So, by all means, make my day, and file your lawsuit.
As you noted, I have relied on Steve Young for some information. I trust you realize that if I rely on information from a government agency, as is the case here, and that information is untrue I cannot be held liable for that. So you ought to take up with him and the City School District of New Rochelle.
As you noted Chrissy was afforded the opportunity to provide her side of the story, many months ago. She declined although she did speak to me on the telephone and did agree to my updating a previous story.
If that has changed, I am certain my readers would like to know more about their taxpayer dollars were being used and what exactly happened to the large sums of money raised by the NRHS Cheerleading program over the years while she was Head Coach.
Talk of the Sound"
My follow up reply:
I have reviewed your letter and made appropriate updates. I have gone one step further and published all of your communications. Readers can read them and draw their own conclusions.
You make 5 points, let me address each of them:
“Ms. Stanionis was not "suspended in December 2016 by AD Steve Young for unstated reasons." ln fact, the New Rochelle School District has never formally Suspended her as a coach.”
I never said Stanionis was “formally suspended”. If she wants to use some different term for her being denied access to the team, the gym, and so on I am open to hearing characterization of the action taken by Steve Young at that time. Request denied.
“Ms. Stanionis was not "separated from employment by the District in May 2017." In fact, Athletic Director ('AD") Steve Young terminated Ms. Stanionis' employment as New Rochelle's Cheerleading head coach effective April 21, 2017.”
Here is my correction on this point:
Chrissy Stanionis was not "separated from employment by the District in May 2017” as she originally told Talk of the Sound. She was fired by Steve Young on April 21, 2017.”
Hope that helps!
“Ms. Stanionis had no part in the so called "significant financial irregularities with the Program." Your statements here are contradictory because you previously quote Ms. Stanionis in your May 2,2017 article stating: “Stanionis said she was unaware of any financial issues. She added the her program is funded by a seperate 501(c)(3).””
My statements are not contradictory here because I have yet to state Stanionis had a part in “significant financial irregularities with the Program. This would explain your note quoting such a statement as I never made such a statement. As I never made the statement my publishing Stanionis statement cannot be contradictory. You are, however, effectively affirming that Stanionis did speak with me prior to the publication of my most recent article.
“In your futile attempt to delegitimize the multiple championship victories of Ms.Stanionis' past New Rochelle HS Cheerleading squads, Ms. Stanionis did not use a "quirk in the rules to compete against smaller schools, racking up victories facing off against schools less than half the size of New Rochelle High School, in some cases one-third the size." Each and every victory and entry to compete was permissible according to rules of each respective competition, no so called "quirk" was used.
I consider it a quirk in the rules that a school the size of New Rochelle, second largest in the state, can choose to compete against much smaller schools by simply fielding a team of 12 or less athletes. Apparently you do not. You (and she) are entitled to your opinions but they are just that, opinions, and not a matter for a defamation case. Request denied on this one.
“Regarding your attempts to defame the current (2017-2018) New Rochelle Cheerleading squad”
Let me take this phrase separately.
Am I to understand that you are now representing the City School District of New Rochelle in this matter? That WOULD surprise me (and I expect them). So, request denied on this one too without bothering to go further.
To review, your raised five points.
Chrissy Stanionis was not formally suspended - DENIED
Chrissy Stanionis was not fired in May - GRANTED (FIRED ON 4/21/17)
Chrissy Stanionis not involved in financial irregularities - DENIED
Not a quirk - DENIED
Current NRHS team - DENIED
I am not sure how you imagine it makes it better that they are banned from ALL post-season competition not just the state championships but OK.
Talk of the Sound"