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Two Starpoint students charged tied to alleged wrestling team misconduct

By Adam Gorski,

2023-03-23
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LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) — Two 17-year-old Starpoint students have been charged with harassment in connection to alleged incidents centered around the school’s varsity wrestling team, the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday.

The two teenagers both were charged with one count of second-degree harassment stemming from an alleged incident that took place at a private residence on Townline Road in the Town of Wheatfield.

Additionally, further second-degree harassment charges are pending for the same two students stemming from other allegations that occurred on the Starpoint School District property.

“I think this went way to far, obviously, that’s why it resulted in criminal charges,” Sheriff Michael Filicetti said. “This has been a hard experience. I think it’s been a hard experience for the victim. I think it’s put a lot of turmoil at Starpoint Schools as a result of a few people’s actions.”

Attorney Terry Connors, who is not involved in this case, says these charges are violations of the New York State penal code, meaning they are criminal in nature, but lesser charges than a misdemeanor.

“You have to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that there was the intent to harass, annoy or alarm. If they are able to prove that it does go on the record, albeit not a crime, it’s a violation,” Connors said. “I have seen on several instances, situations where bullying or hazing in a school has resulted in criminal charges. It’s not an unusual tactic. Obviously the parents are very upset about what happened if they perceive their children were the subject of bullying and victims, and they explore all their options.”

Connors says these charges will be handled in town court where the alleged incidents occurred. They are punishable by a maximum of 14 days in behind bars and a fine, according to Connors.

The incidents were alleged to have taken place in January 2023. The names of the 17-year-olds will not be released due to their age.

Starpoint superintendent Dr. Sean M. Croft released a statement Thursday regarding the charges, saying the district is aware of “charges brought forth today related to two high school students” and that they will have no further comment on the investigation.

“The District will continue to take all appropriate and necessary measures to protect our students. We ask that the privacy of all students and their families be respected at this time,” the statement said.

The charges stem from alleged incidents that led to the Starpoint varsity wrestling team’s season being canceled in February, the week of the Section VI Individual Championships. The championships were originally slated to take place at Starpoint, but they were moved to North Tonawanda High School.

Croft said in a statement at the time that “The District is in receipt of serious allegations of inappropriate conduct by one or more members of the Varsity Wrestling Team,” and the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to News 4 an investigation into the team’s conduct.

A petition to overturn the season cancellation was filed in the following days by Starpoint wrestling parents, but it was denied by a judge. The petition detailed parts of the alleged January incidents from one perspective, which stated they allegedly took place during team practices.

Later in February, a lawsuit was filed against the Starpoint School District, Board of Education and superintendent by the parents of a wrestler who claimed their son was accused of inappropriate conduct.

The parents of the wrestler challenged the district’s “notice of emergency removal” against their son, which was filed on Feb. 7, the same day that the district announced that the season was canceled. They claimed the notice did not “identify the emergency threat of physical safety or harm.” They asked for their son to be allowed to return to class and other activities.

The district later responded to the lawsuit, saying as part of a statement “in light of the seriousness of the allegations raised and the privacy of the students involved, the District finds it deplorable that certain individuals have sought to make this into a public spectacle on multiple occasions.”

Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here .

Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here .

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