East Haven High School band teacher under investigation

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EAST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — An East Haven High School teacher is on administrative leave after an incident over the weekend. Matt Laudano is the director of the East Haven High School Co-Op Marching Band. Some parents feel he was much too harsh – even abusive – with some of the students after a competition.

Some of the parents were so upset they went to school administrators; a parent even went to police. East Haven police are leaving it to the school to investigate.

The band performed over the weekend and it didn’t go as well as the students had hoped. Afterward some of the students talked about it. Debora Rivera, whose son is in the band, says they were evaluating their performance.

“There was never a time when one of the kids would look at another kid and say oh, you were awful,” said Rivera. “They were just kind of critiquing.”

Afterward, Laudano held a meeting with the students without their parents. Rivera says he was angry with them for speaking negatively and wanted to know who was responsible. She says many of the students left crying, and that Laudano singled out her son.

“That turned into really a moment where he was bullying them,” said Rivera. “He was really verbally abusing them.”

However, Elizabeth Zembrowski, who is in the band, says Laudano is tough, but he didn’t do anything wrong in that meeting.

“He pointed out people that said things, which was necessary to do because we’re a band family and that shouldn’t have happened,” said Zembrowski.

Rivera wrote a letter to the East Haven Public Schools administration. On Monday morning she and other parents met with school leaders. Former students of Laudano’s were there too.

“It wasn’t just something that was happening now, so a lot of people looked to me for confirmation of what they were saying,” said Barbara Purpora, who had Laudano as a teacher four years ago.

Laudano left the school shortly after the meeting. Dr. Portia Bonner, Superintendent of Schools, says Laudano is on paid administrative leave while they investigate what she calls a “personnel matter”. Rivera says she’s glad the school is taking it seriously.

“I just think it’s very, very sad,” said Rivera. “I feel bad for my son, that he’s had to endure this.”

Many of the students are now concerned they won’t have a director for their competition this weekend. Zembrowski is hoping they’ll still have a band, and that Laudano will continue to lead them.

“He does push us harder to be better because he wants to challenge us,” Zembrowski said.

Kim Adinolfi, Co-President of the East Haven Band Parents Association gave News 8 the following statement:

“In my position as Co-President of the East Haven BPA, I feel it is my duty to support the parents and the students that have complaints. The allegations are serious and are being taken very serious by the school administration and BOE. This is an open investigation and further decisions will be made upon conclusion of said investigation.”

Students will be meeting with school administrators on Tuesday.

News 8 reached out to Laudano but he declined to comment.

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