Rob Simmons will take seat as selectman next week

STONINGTON — First Selectman Rob Simmons said Wednesday that he had reached out to the state child advocate, Sarah Eagan, and expressed his desire "to be fully cooperative with any activity her office may engage in” regarding the school district's handling of the resignation of Stonington High School teacher Timothy Chokas, who was accused by female students of inappropriate behavior.

Simmons, who spoke at the Board of Selectmen's meeting, said he had also had conversations with Alexa Garvey, who chairs the local Board of Education, and Superintendent of Schools Van W. Riley, who concurred with Simmons that “we will be fully cooperative in this matter, and that bringing in an impartial third party, due to the situation, is a good idea.”

“We will allow them to look into this matter and prepare a report, and I will reserve any judgment on the issue until I read the report,” Simmons said. “I think that’s a fair way to proceed.”

“I have had past experience in dealing with a child advocate … and I’m hopeful the guidance and advice of the child advocate will be helpful to us in this issue,” Simmons said.

The Office of the Child Advocate website “oversees the protection and care of children and advocates for their well-being,” according to its website. The office has the power to obtain records from schools and other agencies, and to subpoena witnesses, records and documents necessary for investigation or review.

Simmons said information will be provided to the advocate, who would then come to Stonington and “visit and talk with people and make recommendations.” The request for information, he said, has a deadline of approximately July 12.

“We will provide the child advocate with all the details,” Simmons said.

Chokas resigned his position as a technology education teacher and assistant golf coach in January after female students complained to school officials in 2017 and 2018 that he had engaged in inappropriate physical contact with them while he was instructing them. School officials gave no reason for Chokas’ resignation but in a settlement gave him a year’s salary and benefits and agreed not to disclose the reason for his departure. Chokas, in turn, agreed not to sue the district.

School officials have not released documentation as to whether they notified the police or DCF regarding Chokas’ alleged actions, citing a state law that grants confidentiality in possible cases of child abuse.

Riley later said that DCF was contacted but declined to investigate the matter further.

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