A Hauppauge High School administrator has apologized to students following a 10th-grade assembly where the official made inappropriate remarks in connection with the school’s dress code, the district announced Friday.
Superintendent Dennis O’Hara said the district would take appropriate action in regard to the administrator, but added that he could not comment further due to confidentiality rules surrounding personnel decisions.
According to the district, the dress-code remarks came at a Thursday assembly attended by about 300 10th-graders. Those students were reassembled the following morning to hear an apology from the school administrator and remarks by the superintendent as well. In the apology, the administrator also made clear “that there is no excuse for harassment of any student,” the district said.
Several students and former students interviewed by Newsday identified the administrator as Joy Ferrara, an assistant high-school principal. Those interviewed included both critics and supporters of Ferrara. Ferrara could not be reached for comment Friday.
Students said Ferrara contended during the initial assembly that some female students at the high school were dressing immodestly in violation of the dress code, and that they were at risk of being harassed as a result.
At the later meeting, O’Hara assured students that the district would safeguard them.
“I told them that my primary responsibility is the health, safety and welfare of students — that’s always our first priority — and that no form of harassment and bullying is acceptable,” the schools chief said.
One 10th-grader, Giovanna Buglione, 15, said she was reassured by what she heard at what many students called “the apology assembly,” after feeling concerned about some of the remarks made the day before.
“I don’t think she meant what she said,” Buglione said of the assistant principal’s Thursday remarks. “I was offended initially.”
Newsday’s interview with the 10th-grader was approved by her mother, in accordance with the newspaper’s policy regarding interviews with minors.
Wendy Cavanagh, president of Hauppauge’s Parent Teacher Student Association, commended the district on its handling of the case, stressing she spoke only for herself and not for her organization.
“I do feel the district was proactive in speaking with the children,” Cavanagh said. “They certainly didn’t try to sweep anything under the rug.”
Hauppauge High School enrolls about 1,200 students in a district straddling the Smithtown/Islip border.