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Principal Placed on Leave During Probe of Sexual Misconduct Claim

By Frank Parlato

The 79th Street School is without its principal, Mr. 'K" who is on paid leave.

The Niagara Falls Reporter has learned that the principal of the 79th Street school, Patrick M. Kuciewski, was placed on paid administrative leave Monday after the school district became aware of a Niagara Falls Police Department investigation into alleged sexual misconduct with a former female student.

According to sources, the incidents are alleged to have taken place more than 15 years ago when Kuciewski was a music director at Niagara Middle School and continued for years.  Kuciewski has been with the district for more than 30 years.
School Supt. Cynthia Bianco declined to comment other than to confirm Kuciewski was placed on paid leave and that "we are following all the proper procedures."

Police Chief Bryan DalPorto, when contacted by the Reporter, declined to name the subject of the investigation and would say that there was a complaint "involving a school district employee" and that there is presently "an active investigation of sexual misconduct."
"We are actively investigating it," DalPorto said. "We are at the first stages of the investigation. It is very, very preliminary. It is still an allegation."

The Reporter confirmed that Niagara Falls Police Detective Patricia McCune has been assigned to the case and that McCune, according to sources, interviewed Kuciewski Monday.

Bianco said, "We are working with the authorities. Other than that, I have no comment. We cannot discuss personnel issues, but we are investigating."

"What we do in these matters is to immediately remove the individual while we continue our investigation," said school district attorney, Angelo Massaro.

"When it is complete, then we take whatever action is warranted."

When asked if the statute of limitations may have expired since the latest of the alleged events occurred more than 10 years ago, Massaro declined to address any of the criminal elements. "I am waiting to see the complete review and the results of the investigation," he said.

"Regardless of whether it is beyond the statute of limitations, and therefore no criminal charges can be leveled, if allegations of sexual misconduct are true against any individual who works for the school district, then we would take every step to remove the individual from children," Massaro said.

"At this point, until the investigation is complete, it is prudent to place an individual accused (of sexual misconduct with a student) on administrative leave, review all the facts and make a determination."

A 3020A proceeding would be the procedural method to remove a licensed teacher or administrator from their position. The district would also notify the State Department of Education for the state to make a determination of whether or not the employee's teaching license would be revoked or not.

"Even if there were no criminal charges, the teacher or administrator might still be removed," Massaro said. "In this case, our district has moved quickly.

If there is any validity to the allegations, the individual is removed quickly from children. Our past history will prove that out."

According to a source, there was a secretly recorded phone call involving the alleged victim and Kuciewski where apparently an admission was made, that was enough to prompt police action.

The 79th Street School is located at 551 79th St. in Niagara Falls. There are 452 students, 24 teachers and 20 classrooms at the school. The alleged victim is 30. The alleged abuse began when the alleged victim was 14 and at the time Kuciewski was a music teacher. Both the alleged victim and Kuciewski live in Niagara Falls.

It is our policy to report the news and the placing of a principal of an elementary school on paid leave following an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct with a minor is news.

However, we caution the public that a person is innocent until proven guilty and that as Chief Dal Porto said, "This is a preliminary investigation."

Kuciewski earns $116,041 per year, according to public records.

Calls to Kuciewski's home and cell phone went unanswered.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

JUN 11, 2013