Alleging racial discrimination, three minority students at Fairfield High School — arrested in February after a fight broke out in the school parking lot — plan to sue the town, claiming they were singled out base upon their “ethnicity and national origin.”
Michael Anderson and Stephen 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. They also claim to be arrested without a warrant and without probable cause.
Defendants named in the notices of intent to sue are the Fairfield Police Department, Police Officer Nicholas Vanghele, Police Officer Brian Lersner, the Fairfield Board of Education, Fairfield High School, Headmaster John M. Dodig and Stephen Toth, the dean of students at Ludlowe House.
In February, according to police, an altercation at Fairfield High School ended with two students being taken to Bridgeport Hospital — one for a wrist injury, and the other for a suspected asthma attack — and three arrests.
According to police reports, at about 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 14, an officer directing traffic near the high school heard a large group of students yelling, swearing and challenging each other to a fight, police said. Despite police warning, two continued and a third jumped in. The traffic officer and a second officer broke up the fight and arrested the three students outside of Fairfield High’s Fitts House.
According to police, the three students arrested for breach of peace, and interfering with an officer are the three now intending to sue. At the time of their arrests, Michael Anderson was 16. Stephen Anderson and Trevil were both juveniles and their ages were not given by police.
Joseph Maya, an attorney with Maya and Associates of Fairfield, the law firm representing the three minority students, said as a result of the altercation the Anderson brothers were each suspended from Fairfield High, but Trevil was not. School officials said three other students who had not been arrested were also suspended. School officials would not confirm the racial and ethnic background of the other suspended students.
Maya said on Tuesday that the charges against his clients had been dropped. However, neither the Fairfield Town Attorney, James Baldwin, nor the Fairfield police would confirm that on Tuesday.
The students claim that several “white” students began shouting racial slurs at them as they were leaving school 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 said.
The documents contend that, as a result of the incident, Stephen Anderson suffered an asthma attack and Trevil sustained a broken wrist after being thrown to the ground by police.
Officer Nicholas Vanghele, who was working a traffic detail near FHS at the time of the incident, “tackled” and arrested Stephen Anderson and Trevil, according to the court documents filed by the three students. Officer Brian Lersner, the officer assigned to FHS, tackled and arrested Michael Anderson, according to the notices.
In addition, the Board of Education, officials at Fairfield High School and the Fairfield Police Department were aware of the school’s hostile environment towards students of diverse backgrounds, the documents charged.
The ethnic and cultural composition of the student body at Fairfield High School, according to a 1998 school survey, is 92 percent Caucasian, 4 percent Asian, 3 percent Hispanic, and 1 percent African American.
School officials on Tuesday declined to comment on the pending lawsuit.
“We take these allegations very seriously,” Town Attorney James Baldwin said on Tuesday, adding that the town plans a full investigation of the situation.
BY SARAH YERRINGTON