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MEETING TO FOCUS ON SWIM PROBE

A Depew schools probe into the harassment of a high school swim team member that reportedly included naked dancing and simulated sex has upset parents of other teammates, who are meeting with officials today to defend their sons.

The parents believe the case is being exaggerated, one father said. He said dancing in the locker room was routine, although most of the team members were clothed. In any case, he said, there was never any sexually suggestive touching.

"I played sports in school. I've seen a lot worse stuff going on in locker rooms," said the father, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of his son.

He also said parents believe the district's lawyers are being overly aggressive in the investigation, interviewing some students as long as two hours and accusing his son of lying at one point.

"He wouldn't lie," the father said.

Superintendent Robert F. DeFilippo said he was not aware of the parents' complaints and knew only that they wanted to meet today.

"I said I would be glad to meet with them," he said. "It's part of our ongoing investigation."

The harassment started with the 2001 swim season and stretched into 2002. According to statements taken by police from friends of the freshman, the senior danced naked in front of the freshman while other teammates watched and laughed.

At one point, the freshman was trapped in a corner while the senior, again naked, simulated a sex act on him. In another case, he was pinned down and licked on the chest, court records indicate.

The freshman was also left bound and gagged in the school's instrument room by the senior and, in another incident, pinned to the floor of the instrument room by two students while the senior again simulated a sex act on him, according to the statements.

A friend of the freshman says in his statement that he told both the swim coach and school principal of the locker room incidents. The band teacher was reportedly also told of the incident in the instrument room.

The senior pleaded guilty to harassment last December and paid a $165 fine. However, district officials are now investigating the case at the request of the freshman's parents, who have since moved to another school district.

The swim team parents are also worried that the swim coach, Joseph C. Franjoine, and Principal Edward Balaban will be removed. The parents support both of them, the one father said.

Lawyers for the freshman's family, however, accused the district of failing to provide a safe learning environment.

"This was not a prank. It was same-sex sexual harassment," said Lindy Korn, who with Stafford Ritchie is acting as legal counsel for the family. "The district was deliberately indifferent."

e-mail: ncervantes@buffnews.com

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