Frank B. Vanalesti (Photo courtesy LinkedIn)
OCEAN GATE – A lawsuit alleging that the superintendent sexually abused a minor was the topic of heated discussion at a recent Board of Education meeting. Parents asked how they could feel safe sending their children to school, and the board attorney answered that there have never been any charges and the lawsuit is just for money.
The suit states that
in 2008, an eight-year-old summer school student was playing with her little
brother. A glass cup broke, cutting her chest and her brother’s eyebrow. She
had been examined by a nurse. A few days later, Superintendent Frank Vanalesti
allegedly brought her into his office, closed the door, and asked her to lift
up her shirt to see the cut.
A Facebook post
issued a call to action for residents to come out to protest at a Board of
Education meeting. About half a dozen spoke in the small room. The meeting was
filmed by a resident and posted online.
“It felt like a
punch in the gut,” one parent said, especially to learn about it over the
“How do you expect
us to send our kids to school on Sept. 4?” another asked.
The attorney for the
board, Christopher Supsie, did the talking for the school officials, as is
often the case when there are legal matters.
“There’s been no
charges filed. There’s been no new evidence. Those allegations lacked merit,”
Supsie said. “Now it’s a civil lawsuit in federal court.”
no reason to press charges, so the plaintiff is looking to get money out of the
district, the attorney said.
“A civil lawsuit is
a lawsuit seeking money,” he said. The reason this is coming up now is that
there has been a change in how lawsuits can be filed. The statute of
limitations has been extended.
The lawsuit notes
this statute as well. It mentions that the law changed in May, a month before
the lawsuit was filed. The legislation extended the statute of limitations and
created a two-year window for people who had been allegedly victimized prior to
The Ocean Gate
police, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, and the New Jersey Division of
Child Protection and Permanency (formerly DYFS) all investigated and there were
no charges filed, Supsie said.
This newspaper filed
an Open Public Records Act request with the prosecutor’s office to view any
charges against Vanalesti and the request turned up empty.
Parents asked if the
board had their own investigation, but Supsie said that with local, county and
state investigators all coming up with the same answer, there was no need.
Additionally, board of education members are not investigators and lack the
training to conduct a proper investigation.
After being told
that there is no proof of wrongdoing, a parent shouted “we’re supposed to
“I understand it’s
upsetting,” Supsie said. “What would make you feel safe? I can only give you
“There are a lot of
assumptions because a lawyer put something on a piece of paper,” he said.
A woman who
identified herself as the vice president of the Parent Teacher Organization
went to bat for the district.
“Your child is safer
here than probably any other school in Ocean County,” she said. “This is a
lawsuit to defame him and to get money. You’re not listening to what (the
board) lawyer is telling you.”
emotionally defended the board and the superintendent. “It’s unbelievable that
you would not listen to the facts. That man would give his life for these kids.
This is not fair to the teachers, or the board. People are listening to
Facebook and unfounded information instead of the facts right in front of
The attorney for the
plaintiffs, Robert Fuggi, was interviewed for this story the week after the
meeting by Jersey Shore Online. He dismissed the claim that the lawsuit
was only for money.
There are civil
damages in this suit, but it’s due to the harm they lived with, he said. The
two minor children who claim to have been sexually assaulted wouldn’t consider
it to be for money only.
“These are very
serious allegations,” he said.