FAIRFIELD — Three minority students at Fairfield High School – arrested after a brawl last February in the school’s parking lot –plan to sue the town, claiming they were singled out for arrest because of their race and ethnicity.
Stephen Anderson and Michael Anderson, two Hispanic brothers who live on Essex Street, and John Trevil, an African-American living on Sunnyridge Avenue, claim in notices of intent to sue that they were arrested based on their race, ethnicity or national origin. They also claim to have been arrested without a warrant and without probable cause.
At the time of their arrests Feb.14, Michael Anderson was 16. Stephen Anderson and Trevil were both juveniles and their ages were not given by police.
Each was charged with breach of peace and interfering with an officer in connection with the incident. At the time, police said all three were involved in the fight.
School officials said the Anderson brothers were each suspended from Fairfield High in the wake of the fight, along with three other students who had not been arrested. Trevil was not suspended, according to school officials.
Police on Friday declined to comment on the forthcoming litigation. Town Attorney James Baldwin said Friday that he would have no comment until he investigates the complaints.
The students claim that unidentified fellow students yelled racial slurs at them as they were leaving the high school campus for the day.
“As a direct result of these racial slurs, an altercation between several students broke out at Fairfield High School,” each of the notices of intent to sue says.
The documents contend that, as a result of the incident, Stephen Anderson suffered an asthma attack, bruises and abrasions, and Trevil suffered a fractured wrist when he was tackled by police.
The students are all being represented by Tracy L. Norris, a lawyer with the Sherman Street firm of Maya & Associates. Neither Norris nor the students could be reached for comment.
In addition to claims of being unfairly arrested, the three students claim the Board of Education, FHS officials and police “were aware of the school’s hostile environment toward students of diverse backgrounds [and] were deliberately indifferent to this environment, thereby causing [the students] to be discriminated against.”
The students say their claims are based on violations of the U.S. Constitution and Connecticut law.
Defendants named in the notices of intent to sue are the Police Department, Officer Nicholas Vanghele, Officer Brian Lersner, the Board of Education, Fairfield High School, FHS Headmaster John Dodig and Stephen Toth, the dean of students at Ludlowe House.
Vanghele, who was working a traffic detail near FHS at the time of the brawl, tackled and arrested Stephen Anderson and Trevil. Lersner, the officer assigned to FHS, tackled and arrested Michael Anderson, according to the notices.
By Andrew Brophy