Isaac Young “Welcome to the Jungle” Football Hazing Two Years Later: Coach Back In, Victim Kicked Out

Written By: Robert Cox

KennyPhillipsNEW ROCHELLE, NY — Talk of the Sound has learned that the victim in an infamous football hazing incident at Isaac E. Young Middle School in 2012 was subjected to a residency audit and removed from the District after the incident received national media attention. Meanwhile, Kenneth Phillips, the football coach who ignored the victim’s complaints of a sexual assault by members of the team, was quietly removed as head coach for one year then just as quietly brought back to be a paid Assistant Coach this year.

Some consider the entire matter another example of how school officials in New Rochelle — and their apologists among the PTA, SEPTA and other community organizations operate, a person who identifies a problem becomes the problem; the people who caused the problem are protected by a “circle the wagons” culture that has protected bad actors among New Rochelle School District employees for decades.

In 2012, as the story broke, the District sought to cover up the incident through a series of false and conflicting public statements that centered on a fundamentally misleading talking point: “police were called and they determined that no crime had been committed.”

Police were called but told only that the incident involved “towel-snapping” and from that description police concluded that no crime had been committed, according to New Rochelle Police Detective Captain Joseph Schaller.

Based on Talk of the Sound reporting, and as documented in an interview with the victim by WCBS2-TV’s Lou Young, the incident involved alleged sexual assaults and more. Further, the failure of a sports coach to report such an incident to authorities would be a crime, a Class A misdemeanor (Failure to Report Soc. Serv. Law § 420). The law applies to any mandatory reporter who “knowingly and willfully fails to report as required shall be civilly liable for the damages proximately caused by such failure”.

Then-School Board President Chrisanne Petrone issued a statement at the time that “the school district administration acted swiftly and appropriately in this matter.” Isaac E. Young Middle School PTA member Karen Hessel dismissed the incident, telling the Journal News “hazing can happen anywhere”.

Schaller disputed the District’s account, saying the District misrepresented the incident to New Rochelle police. Schaller has said repeatedly to a variety of media outlets that the District did not notify police of allegations of sexual assault or even notify the family that the police had been contacted. Nor did they report the coach for allegedly violating his obligations as a mandated report under New York State law — failing to report the victim’s complaint to police or Child Protective Services.

Two years ago this month, Talk of the Sound broke the “Welcome to the Jungle” story of a football hazing incident at Isaac E. Young Middle School that resulted in the cancellation of the remainder of the football season – three games. The story received widespread media coverage including the Journal News, News 12, the Huffington Post, and the New York Post after the story was picked up by Lou Young of WCBSTV-2.

Recent football hazing incidents at Sayreville War Memorial High School in Central New Jersey, Central Bucks West High Schoo in Bucks County, PA, William Cullen Bryant High School in Long Island City, Queens have received national attention.

Back in 2012, after initial attempts to ignore the story failed — Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak called Young “a known bottom feeder” — the District issued a statement.

The first statement, read aloud at a school board meeting by then-Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak, claimed that “after a report of an incident involving members of the Isaac Young Middle School football team in the locker room in late October, the New Rochelle Police Department conducted a thorough investigation” and “determined that no criminal activity had taken place.”

Captain Schaller, spokesperson for the department, had for a week repeatedly denied that the there was any investigation that involved the New Rochelle Police Department.

During the public meeting, the board was made aware that Schaller had denied that his department had conducted an investigation.

Organisciak was challenged on his claims during an executive session immediately following the public meeting forcing him to issue a second statement where the responsibility was shifted — claiming that there had been a “thorough investigation” launched by the principal that involved the New Rochelle Police Department, adding that all Isaac parents had been notified of the hazing incident by letter and phone calls home.

There claims were also false.

Schaller again denied that his department had conducted any investigation. He said the report they received was of on incident of “towel whipping” that did not rise to the level of requiring a police investigation.

The District issued a third and final statement where they attributed the investigation to Principal Anthony Bongo and acknowledged that only the parents of the 33 members of the football team were contacted, not all parents as original claimed.

The District told the Journal News that on October 25th, parents of the students on the football team were invited to a meeting with Dr. Bongo during which Bongo discussed the matter and “parents were informed of the investigation and the consequences for the students”.

What the District failed to tell Journal News reporter Ken Valenti is that the meeting was called with little notice, parents were not told the subject of the meeting or that there was any particular urgency to their attending — and that only two parents showed up for the meeting.

Bongo told the few parents who did show up that he cancelled the remainder of the 2012 football season because the students on the team refused to answer questions.

In short, there was not a “thorough investigation” by anyone, there was no investigation that “involved the New Rochelle Police Department”, the only attempt at an investigation by Dr. Bongo was stonewalled by the players.

The victim’s mother told CBS’ Young that she had not spoken with the police and unaware that the school had spoken to the police.

In the WCBSTV-2 interview the 12-year old described a sexual assault that left him beaten and bruised. He told Young that members of the football team assaulted him on numerous occasions — pulling up his shirt, pulling his nipples, punching him, and dry-humping him in a sexual way.

Kenneth Phillips was the Head Coach of the 2012 Isaac E. Young football team, in addition to working at the school as a Teaching Assistant. In New Rochelle, the Head Football Coach at New Rochelle’s two middle schools is paid a stipend of $5,446, the Assistant Football Coach is paid $4,498.

During Bongo’s investigation, Phillips admitted that he had received complaints from the victim but failed to report them to anyone, sources say.

Under New York State Law, Phillips was (and still is) a mandated reporter — both as a sports coach and a teacher — and thus required to file a report or cause a report to be filed if they have “reasonable cause to suspect that a child coming before them in their professional or official capacity is an abused or maltreated child”.

Phillips was removed as Head Coach. He was replaced for the 2013 season by Pasquale “Pat” Salvo, his former Assistant Coach. John Murphy became the Assistant Football Coach. A New Rochelle Board of Education resolution authorized stipends for Salvo and Murphy as the football coaches at Isaac E. Young Middle School for the 2013 season.

Phillips spent the 2013 season working as an unpaid assistant football coach at New Rochelle High School.

In August 2014, the New Rochelle Board of Education passed a board resolution again authorized stipends for Salvo and Murphy as the Isaac E. Young Middle School football coaches. By September, however, Murphy was suddenly out and Phillips back coaching football at Isaac, this time as the Assistant Coach.

Attempts to contact the family of the victim were unsuccessful.

The New Rochelle School District did not respond to an email asking the following questions:

1. Why was Phillips, a mandated reporter, not reported to police for his failure to report the abuse incident? This is a Class A misdemeanor and took place at a school where the memory of the Jose Martinez incident was still quite fresh.

2. Why was he allowed to coach anywhere, ever, and in particular back at Isaac?

3. How is that Phillip still has a job in the New Rochelle school district?

4. Is the victim in the case still a student in New Rochelle, if not, why not.

5. Anything else you care to add.