Leading off today:
A veteran teacher fired last year after a physical confrontation with one of the most successful basketball coaches in state history is suing the district and the State Education Department.
Anthony Jackson, who was a tenured physical education teacher and an assistant coach at Peekskill, unsuccessfully sought to have a state hearing officer's decision overturned in State Supreme Court last month and has filed in appellate court, The Journal News reported.
According to the account of the January 16, 2014, incident published by the paper, Jackson and boys basketball coach Lou Panzanaro tangled after practice and had to be separated by other faculty members. Panzanaro, who retired as coach last spring with 576 wins and five NYSPHSAA titles, was suspended five days but Jackson was fired.
Court documents state Panzanaro had gathered his team after practice to explain that if a player missed practice, he's be held out of the next game. Jackson, whose son had recently been kept out of a game, began arguing over the coach's reasons for holding some players out of games, with Jackson asking why the coach's stepson, Dan, was allowed to play after missing six days of practice.
"I knew that he was insinuating that the rule was different for Dan," Panzanaro wrote in an email to Superintendent Larry Licopoli the following day. "So I said sarcastically, 'Yes, that's because he's my stepson.'"
Panzanaro said Jackson "got very close to me and was looking down at me in a menacing way. It felt uncomfortable and threatening.
"I was holding a basketball under my arm and I reached out and put my hands on his stomach to get some space. He yelled out that I put my hands on him. At that moment ... I turned my head to the right and I felt a punch on my left ear. I took the ball and threw it at Tony."
The paper reported Jackson alleges Panzanaro not only "verbally taunted" him, but initiated the physical contact. He also says he slapped the coach and didn't punch him. Jackson, who was hired as a teacher in 2001, was on paid leave for seven months before State Education Department hearing officer Jeffrey Cassidy made his recommendation for dismissal.
Hilton appealing: Hilton administrators are seeking to keep Section 5 from disciplining boys basketball coach Troy Prince for making contact with a game official at halftime of a Jan. 23 game vs. Rush-Henrietta, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.
Prince argued that an R-H player committed a foul en route to scoring as time ran out in the second quarter. A Hilton official said when Prince demonstrated what he thought happened on the play, the referee assessed a technical foul but did not eject the coach.
Under NYSPHSAA rules, a coach who makes physical contact "with the intent to annoy, harass or intimidate another person (e.g. official, another coach, player, fan) should be expelled immediately and banned from further participation or coaching in all sports for a period of time to be determined by the section not to exceed one year from the date of the offense."
Hilton officials contend Prince cannot be disciplined under that rule without having first been ejected. "We don't believe that they followed it as it's written," assistant superintendent Scott Massie told the paper.
Neither Massie nor Ed Stores, executive director of Section 5, specified what discipline the sanctioning body has in mind, the paper reported.
Opinion: If Prince intentionally made contact with an official, then he needs to be disciplined regardless of whether he was thrown out of the game.
I haven't spoken to anyone yet with knowledge of the proposed penalty, but the Hilton district should treat a two-game suspension as a godsend and four games as a lesson learned for an act that should never be repeated.
Anything beyond that would probably be too harsh unless Prince went back for seconds or started questioning whether there had been any marriages in the ref's family in the past generation or two.
Bottom line: No one should ever, ever, ever initiate