Connecticut AG launches civil rights investigation into Greenwich school hiring of Catholics, conservatives

Douglas Hook/Hartford Courant/TNS
·4 min read

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong launched a civil rights investigation Thursday into hiring practices at a Cos Cob public school, saying he will not tolerate discrimination in employment.

Tong’s statements came one day after the release of an undercover video by Project Veritas, a controversial conservative group that has used hidden cameras for years to expose statements by various individuals. An assistant principal, Jeremy Boland, appeared on the video and is heard saying that he avoids hiring conservatives, Catholics and older teachers.

“Discrimination, hate, bigotry against any person and against any religion or on the basis of age or otherwise is reprehensible and wrong,” Tong told reporters in Hartford.

“This video is disturbing. If teachers, school staff or applicants for education jobs have been illegally discriminated against for any reason, I will take action. As your attorney general, I will exercise my civil rights authority to protect people in Connecticut who are subjected to illegal discrimination anywhere — just as I have protected Connecticut’s immigrants, LBGTQ+ people and others subjected to discrimination and deprivation of rights.”

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said the wide-ranging investigation is needed.

“We need to know how many Catholics have been turned away from employment in Greenwich public schools, and not simply at Cos Cob,” Donohue said. “We also need to know if religious profiling is systemic in the schools and if those who hold to traditional moral values have been excluded from consideration by school administrators. To this end, we are contacting officials at the state Department of Education and the Greenwich public schools, asking for such a probe.”

U.S. Senate candidate Leora Levy, a Greenwich resident, held a press conference outside the Cos Cob School on Wednesday evening with several candidates for office and James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas that released the video.

“Thank you, James,” Levy said as the news conference ended.

On the substance of the Cos Cob case, Levy said, “It is abhorrent. It is wrong. And it is un-American.”

Tong said Thursday that he stood by his comments made Wednesday to The Courant about the undercover videos and sting operations used by Project Veritas.

“I think there’s something really wrong with vigilante journalism, and I don’t think it should be celebrated,” Tong said. “There are no rules when somebody engages in Wild West vigilante journalism and tries to entrap somebody.”

House Republican leader Vincent Candelora of North Branford said the legislature’s education committee should hold public hearings to obtain the stories of teacher applicants.

“How many people were passed up on interviews because they were Catholic or because they were over 30?” Candelora asked. “And I think it is pretty disconcerting that the administrator was, it looks like, using discriminatory practices to advance indoctrination. It is sort of a two-pronged issue. I think that the state of Connecticut needs to investigate it — the individuals who were passed over on job opportunities, but also the students. This administrator was indicating that he had a political motive that went beyond what educators should be doing.’'

Tong’s new authority for civil rights became effective on July 1, 2021, under a four-page law that is known as Public Act 21-128.

“When Tong ran for office, he ran on that policy, civil rights, that individuals would be protected by private and public causes of action,” Candelora said. “He wanted the ability to pursue private causes of action. So he needs to put his money where his mouth is now by starting an investigation for these individuals who were aggrieved.”

During his news conference Thursday, Tong said he wants to hear from those who applied to get jobs at the Cos Cob School and were rejected. He released a telephone number, 860-808-5410, for those who believe they have experienced discrimination, and officials said that voicemail will be available when the office is closed. Complaints can also be filed at dir.ct.gov/ag/complaint.

“As this gets publicized and as we start having an open dialogue, you may see teachers coming forward who are Catholic or over the age of 30 who were denied interviews at that school,” Candelora said.

During an unrelated appearance Thursday at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Gov. Ned Lamont said he was stunned by the video.

“It’s not Connecticut,” he said. “It’s not the values that we represent. It’s certainly not something that is appropriate at all in this state, certainly not in our schools. I know the school board will be investigating. I think you’ll see additional investigations coming out of the state Department of Education and beyond. We’re going to get to the bottom of this and make sure this is an isolated incident and not something else.”

Lamont added that state education officials must spread the word and “make sure we work with all our superintendents across the state, make sure they know, as strong as I feel that this is absolutely unacceptable.”

Courant staff writers Edmund Mahony and Kenneth R. Gosselin contributed to this report.

Christopher Keating can be reached at ckeating@courant.com.