GREENWICH — Greenwich High School Rugby Coach Joe Kelly said the state Department of Children and Families has found claims levied against him and his five assistant coaches to be unsubstantiated.
A DCF investigator called Kelly this week, the coach said, adding a letter is on the way. The investigator, Kelly said, told him charges made by a parent were without merit, and the parent’s story kept changing.
School officials have not been informed that the investigation has ended or of its results, Human Resources Officer Robert Stacy said in an email Wednesday. School administrators suspended Kelly and most of his assistant coaches indefinitely in response to the allegations.
DCF officials did not respond to request for comment.
Kelly for the first time Wednesday revealed the nature of the charges, made by the father of a player, that the DCF investigated. The parent said coaches were drinking with players on a tournament trip, left players unsupervised and were passed out in the airport, according to Kelly.
Kelly vehemently denied the claims. Several sources, including parents who were on the trip, have told Greenwich Time the accusations were false.
The series of events dates back to the Rugby State Championships held in Kansas City, Missouri at the end of May. Kelly and his fellow coaches reportedly found a student in violation of a school code. Kelly has not specified which rule the teenager broke, but several sources have said the student was drinking.
The coaches suspended the player for the rest of the season and notified the Greenwich High athletic department.
That action angered the boy’s father, who vowed to “take down the program,” the coach and others have said. The father told school officials the coaches drank with the players and left them unsupervised, Kelly said. Greenwich Public School administrators filed a complaint with the DCF as the state requires school staff to report accusations of misconduct.
Kelly said he heard nothing from the athletic department until he received his suspension notice from administrators on June 12.
One parent, who also spoke to the DCF investigator and has chaperoned previous trips, confirmed Wednesday the questions the DCF asked were about the safety of the rugby players during the trip.
“They run a tight ship,” the parent, who did not want to be identified, said. “No kids were left unattended, nor unsupervised. Coaches weren’t drinking with the kids.”
The claims are lies, the parent said, adding the coaches conduct room checks and constantly make sure every player is accounted for: “Their jobs are on the line. They’re so strict as it is.”
Coaches needed to be protected, Kelly said.
“We were guilty until proven innocent,” he said. “No one asked us anything, they just suspended us. In America, we’re innocent until proven guilty. What lesson is the school trying to teach us by suspending us for 45 days? Cover up for a child who breaks the school rules? Giving into parent pressure instead of doing what’s right?”
Greenwich’s performance in the Summer Rugby Sevens Program suffered because the suspension prevented the coaches from contacting the students, Kelly said. The town team underperformed until the last game, played this weekend, which the players won.
Greenwich has long had a strong showing in the sevens program.
“Our sevens program was decimated this year due to investigations,” Kelly said. “Alumni came and gave their support, but it’s not the same as us coaches.”
The Greenwich High Rugby Team has won 11 straight state titles, including nine under Kelly.
The suspension also interrupted the college acceptance process, Kelly said. Players were on all-star team tours, including one tour in Ireland and two in Canada.