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Hazing News

Wilson coaches say they were innocent

y Sharon Osorio

Story Published: Jul 8, 2009 at 6:35 PM EDT

Story Updated: Jul 8, 2009 at 6:35 PM EDT
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Thomas Baia and William Atlas were coaches and teachers in Wilson until they were charged with child endangerment in April 2008. Those charges were dropped Monday by the Niagara County District Attorney’s office, and now the two men are speaking out.
The men, who both live in Wilson, say they are innocent of the charges, and say that the truth led the district attorney’s office to drop those charges. Dozens of supporters, including relatives, teachers and students, joined them in the Baia family’s back yard.
Baia says he was sitting in the front of the bus but facing the back of the bus for about 40 minutes of the estimated 45-minute ride. He says he saw nothing inappropriate, and that his six year old son was also sitting in the back of the bus with students he’d trust to babysit his own children.
Both men would like to return to teaching in Wilson, and they want to repair their reputations.
Still, attorneys for the three alleged student victims say the dropped charges will not change the civil suit that’s being filed against the Wilson school district, and that their clients are victims.
The coaches’ spokesman says the allegations stem from a hysterical parent who called a friend within State Police, but attorney Chris O’Brien represents a teen who was allegedly “beaten up” by older baseball players on the bus, and says his client worried about going back on the bus again because of the incident.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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