L.I. Student Suing School Over ‘Excessive Punishment’

KINGS PARK, N.Y. (CBS 2) — In Suffolk County, a high school student who confessed to an alcohol infraction said her school’s punishment goes way too far.

The teenager was banned from all extracurricular activities for the rest of the school year. She said that’s unfair treatment, and now she and her family are suing the school, reports CBS 2’s Chris Wragge.

Nina Ottaviano, 17, said being cut from all extracurricular activities for the rest of the year is an especially high price to pay for a top student who broke the rules only once.

“I was part of a bad situation, and now I’m the one that’s being victimized,” Ottaviano said.

Nina attends Kings Park High School on the North Shore, where she excels as a student and athlete.

She said that before a party in mid-September, she accepted a bottle of rum from one friend to give to another.

“I gave her alcohol, she put it in a hair spray bottle, [and] she was caught with it on school property,” Ottaviano said.

When confronted, Nina readily admitted her involvement. Her honesty didn’t help – she was suspended from all activities for the rest of the year, including the school newspaper, National Honor Society, Spanish club, and basketball and soccer.

“She was not able to participate in the fall soccer season, so the college scouts that came by couldn’t see her,” her father, John Ottaviano, said.

Her mother said she’s now being bullied.

“My heart hurts for her, I feel sick for her,” Margie Ottaviano said. “I worry about my kids going to school now.”

The school’s position is one of zero tolerance for alcohol. A district statement referred to its Web site, which says possession of alcohol can result in removal from all activities for the remainder of the school year.

The family’s attorney, though, said the school’s punishment is excessive, and is enforced very inconsistently.

“Primarily male students who have been caught drinking, and no such punishment has been rendered to them,” Ottaviano family attorney Jeffrey Brown said.

The Ottaviano family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the school district.

  • nobleornot

    Unspecified damages

    I am sure it is most difficult to present News that is reasonably accurate and relevant and that is especially true in the latest problems at Kings Park School.
    Much of what is reported on the public sites and in videos through Newsday is inaccurate and it would seem prudent to try to get some of the facts straight by digging through ‘who says what’ after all the editing.
    While it is no surprise that John Ottaviano is a good man and loving father much of what was reported through his lawyer and in the Newsday columns and videos was/is flawed. Certainly there are some big problems in KPHS but it is no secret that the new administration was getting much tougher on alcohol and drug use. The rules and their subsequent penalties were made clear at school meetings, on their web page, in handouts , through robocalls , and in mailings to the home numerous times early this year. Some other facts specifically related to helping to correct your CBS public blogs, and Newsday versions of Ottaviano vs KPHS are as follows:

    • At least 2 weeks prior to the night of KPHS senior banquet it was very well communicated that alcohol and drugs would spell big trouble for anyone involved.

    • Nina Ottaviano had secured alcohol for herself but had nowhere to ‘hide’ it so she gave it to another student to put it in her bag. This other student is also a well regarded soccer player in her own right and is pursuing that option in college as well.

    • This other student was caught prior to the bus leaving the KPHS parking lot for the banquet and her discipline began there and then.

    • Nina went on to the banquet without coming forward.

    • The student that was caught went home and relayed the story to her mother who immediately went to the Ottaviano’s home to discuss the situation with them as they are/ were friendly.

    • When Mr. Ottaviano finally got to the High school to meet the bus to pickup Nina many other parents were there as well. There were dozens of folks which heard his very long and loud ‘discussion’ with Nina in the parking lot about how she is ruining her future options.

    • Only after the event did they come forward to reveal that it was actually Nina who supplied the other student with the alcohol.

    • Mr. Ottaviano has been involved with “club” soccer and everyone certainly knows that is where colleges recruit most all of their candidates. Nina and the other student involved have both been participants in countless club games and showcases for many years all along the Northeast. And certainly that is where a huge majority of the recruiting occurs especially during the student’s junior year.

    • Nina is a good athlete and a good student but a knowledgeable eye would detect that her likelihood of being recruited at a local High School game this late in the season were nil. This equally applies to any current senior High school student on long island.

    • The requirement of KPHS athletes to sign a player contract on their conduct and alcohol (and substance abuse) is well known as the KPHS athletic director could tell you. Certainly a very well regarded KPHS varsity basketball coach has also required a contract with each player every year – Nina was a previous player on his team.

    • Any of the ‘other situations’ that would have caused unequal treatment regarding alcohol use that we are aware of have occurred during the past administration (prior to the new notices) and/or off of school grounds and outside of school activities.

    • The alluded to unequal treatment does not appear to be a boy / girl thing as many of the ‘examples’ cited by Mr. Brown of less strict rules application are actually girls as well.

    These are just some of the many facts which dozens and dozens of folks are aware of here at Kings Park High School. It should not be too hard to uncover them with any reasonable investigation; after all they are not secrets.

    Kings Park Schools need to continue to work on their sound approach to controlling as much of this alcohol/substance problem as they can. They also need to take action against any of their own employee’s who serve as a negative role model and derail all of the positive efforts that are undertaken.
    Additionally this “News” needs to be accurate and focus around the good of the kids instead of the adults on both sides. These adults obviously have their own agenda -and knowingly or not hurt the future potential of all kids.
    Understandably it is impossible for you to really get to know Nina, the other student involved, or the countless other KPHS students affected by this mess. But if you could get to really know Nina and the other student you would find some very talented kids that are mature and responsible and which you would be proud of. It is a certainty that these two will be huge contributors to our society in the future if we all just allow that to happen. Do not be misled by these recent events into thinking either of these ‘kids’ have any real issues with substances or behavior because they do not. This is now about parents and administrators looking for personal gain or avoiding personal pain as opposed to truly helping the students involved now or in the future.


    • R.C.

      Life isn’t always fair and women, especially young women are still targets. The men expect the young “ladies” to be just that, ladies. If the “guys” got caught w/ alcohol, they’d just slap ’em on the butt and tell them, don’t let me catch ya again. In society women are viewed as the responsible people, in the end they’re all still kids. Did your kids ever make a mistake. If they haven’t you just don’t know about it yet. Godspeed.

  • Charles Sharp

    Zero Tolerance is a joke. it is okay for punishment but excessive punishment is just simply ridiculous and in this case this clearly seems excessive.

  • Steve

    Way to teach your kids that consequences mean nothing and that the rules do not apply to them. Your kid isn’t special or unique, if the school has rules in place saying there is zero tolerance toward that kind of infraction/behavior, then the punishment fits the crime. She should be happy she wasn’t expelled, learn a lesson and move on with that knowledge and wisdom, but unfortunately, she is being denied that opportunity by her idiot parents. This is why kids are so dependent on their parents these days, because they weren’t taught to be independent and responsible.

  • NothingBut TheTruth

    Does anyone know the true story? First off, she had every intent to drink the alcohol. She had it with her in school all day. It says that she was going to hand it off but that is NOT TRUE! She was going to drink it! Secondly, she did not come forward on her own. She was told that if she did not come forward, the parent of the other child caught with the alcohol would. Ottaviano had no intent of admitting that it was hers, and did so only because it would have been revealed either way. She sat at their Senior Banquet as the other student sat home and cried. Has she been bullied at school? Maybe. But when students are getting phone calls home saying that pictures of them drinking OFF OF SCHOOL GROUNDS were sent to the school district by Ottaviano’s attorney, I think that bullying is expected. As for other students who have gotten in trouble – they did not have alcohol on school grounds! Whether they participated in underage drinking or not, they can not be punished in school. Ottaviano’s father is using examples from OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL to try and make his daughter seem innocent. SHE IS NOT INNOCENT! SHE IS ANYTHING BUT INNOCENT! She IS a LIAR along with the rest of the family, and everyone should know the true story. This is a clear case of blackmail of the many students and members of the community. She may be being bullied in school, but her family is bullying the entire town to cover up her mistakes. SHE NEEDS TO OWN UP TO HER MISTAKES – DON’T COMMIT THE CRIME IF YOU CAN’T DO THE TIME! Those in support of Ottaviano OBVIOUSLY do not know the TRUE story

    • What's fair is fair

      Oh wow! The post by Nothing-but-the-Truth suggests that Nina is not telling the whole truth. In her interview she claims to be a victim. She was just acting as a rum-mule and was being overly penalized for her infraction. Her parents emphasized that other students have gotten off lightly for similar school-based offenses. What a waste of money a lawsuit will be if she is found to be dishonest about what really transpired. Time will tell.

    • wizzard

      Sounds like the there should be civil action against this family if they did falsely reporting other students. Perhaps a class action by taxpayers for a frivolous claim.

  • oh boy

    oh and nina probably is not beingmade fun of and bullie for having alcohol or getting suspended… its because shes a rat! and looks like one too.. suing the school ratting out other students because they hadnt been caught.. come on!

  • oh boy

    I myself graduated from Kings Park High School, and even when I was in school this was the rule and in order to participate in extra cirricular activities there was a waiver to be signed by student and parent/guardian about this rule. For years this has been in effect! They probably signed the paper (if the school is still doing that which I’m not positve because administration has changed but probably are), and if they signed the paper they obvisouly didnt think it was excessive at point of signing…

  • guy

    wow the guys were probably on the football team and now the school is calling kids parents cause of pictures of them drinking on facebook hahha reality hurts doesnt it

  • Michael

    Ridiculous her parents are making her out to be the victim when she chose to do wrong here. Their school policy was clearly stated on their website, if her parents had a problem with it, they should’ve changed schools before she broke the rules. The way she states she was part of a bad situation, sounds exactly like she isn’t really taking full responsibility for her actions. I suspect the only reason she admitted what she’d done when questioned is she knew she was caught & was hoping she’d get off. It doesn’t really count for much unless you own up before the hammer falls…

  • C M Dayton

    Hey, you get what you get and you don’t get upset. Shame the parents for raising such a stupid, irrisponsible kid. Top student? Ha! A top student would be a good citizen and not put her class mates in jeopordy. The rulls are there to keep every one safe and healthy, not for a few spoiled brats and their parents to break. Kids get away with much too much and are treated like little adults not like the children they are. If she was such a top student we wouldn’t be reading about her in an article like this.

  • billy smith

    Yeah, notice some of the people on here can’t read or spell! The girl never had any booze! She was asked to give a bottle to another girl and from the way it sounds not at school. I also love the ones—-“rules are rules!” I guess they would go along with blacks at the back of the bus, because that is the law!

  • zero tolerance

    She looks like a ho, let her go and she’ll drink in college and in no time end up on one of these college girls porn sites! The school is saving her from a lifetime of punishment and now they are suing? Only in America where you try to save the youth and they bite you in the but.

  • What's fair is fair

    If punishments for alcohol consumption are being handed out unevenly by the school, I can understand why Nina wants to draw attention to this issue. I can’t fault her or any other student for expecting that the school’s standards be universal enforced. If others caught drinking were not penalized as harshly as she, the school may need to back off a bit to be fair; like it or not. Moving forward, a new policy can be set at the start of 2011. The school can publicly and officially inform all students that penalties for alcohol consumption will be applied across the board. I truly think that this is the best way to solve this problem.

  • fern

    Most European countries have a drinking age of 16, but what is worse is that an 18 year old can go to Afghanistan, get wounded but he won’t get a beer till he’s 21.

  • daniel mackler

    i feel bad for her, but the article doesn’t give enough info to draw firm conclusions. the punishment does sound excessive, though, and clearly is unfair IF boys are getting special treatment. but if the boys (and the other girls) aren’t getting special treatment then she certainly has less of a case. final thought: all the europeans who drink legally at 16 are laughing at us for our backward alcohol rules. and they binge-drink less, at least the studies show…

  • A Concerned American

    Just because she’s a good student means nothing, other than she probably expects special treatment. This is very likely not her first offense, but just the FIRST TIME THAT SHE’S BEEN CAUGHT. Looks like she is trying to grab some money for school later on.

    • fern

      And you should be concerned, first your reading is lacking as she wasn’t drinking, then you waste your time with silly accusation all this while your country is going down the drain thanks to idiotic schools.

  • MasterG

    People, please think things through before you post. @Jim, don’t you mean “makes no difference whether?” Weather is related to climatic changes.

    @Akkune, do you mean it’s not fair? Fare is the money you pay to ride a subway, for example.

    And parents, please teach your kids to not make statements to investigators or police. Always have your attorney speak on your behalf.

  • Jim

    Nobody’s life was destroyed, this is high school, remember. Lets keep events in perspective. Zero tolerance is zero tolerance! It makes no difference weather top student or bottom student, zero means NO tolerance. I;m sorry she was “grounded” but she did it and she should be ready as a nearly adult to face the consequences. The court case boils down to I was honest, I confessed ergo I should be exonerated so that I can do it again and again.
    No one wants to take their punishment they just want to see how far they can go in breaking the rules.

  • Akunne

    Zero tolerance my foot! This is not just so fare.
    The school management should have forgiven her based on her honesty.
    And if i may ask, what happens now to her on right to socialization?
    Gosh! this is infringement on her fundamental right.
    Sue them wella NINA.

  • a little frightened

    It’s good to see young people who will still fight back.

  • billy smith

    Zero tolerance? Sounds like the boys can be boys and get drunk all they want, but girls—look out. Zero tolerance is a big cop out for schools anyway! So one where a boy brought finger nail clippers to school and charged for bringing a dangerous weapon. Same thing when a little boy brought a toy gun to school. Zero Tolerance is the lazy and weak minded way out. You don’t need to make any decisions—-heaven forbid!

  • k

    The 0 tolrance nforcers do they follow the rules i dont think so

  • Toni

    READ the article again, BOYS! She no longer had the alcohol in her posession!!!

  • Toni Montana

    Figures that the first two comments came from MEN!!!

    • Fred Thomson

      Jeffrey Brown, the lawyer, will say anything to defend his client. Did Jeffrey Brown release names and dates of the males who drinking drinking and/or drunk on school grounds? Of course not. Maybe it happened/maybe not. It probably happened at someone’s house. Lawyers ‘lie’ like rugs. Fair and equal punishment is important regardless of the sex of the student. If it’s PROVEN the administration discriminates….then there’s a case. We’ll see. Regardless; alcohol on school grounds offense. The school has to act.

  • obviousman

    She had it. She knew the risks. Its her own fault for being an idiot and drinking at school. They should kick her out!

  • peter.marton

    What part of Zero Tolerance does she not understand?

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