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Nassau sports body files motion to dismiss lawsuit by Massapequa district

Pat Pizzarelli is the executive director for Section

Pat Pizzarelli is the executive director for Section VIII.  Credit: Jeff Bachner

Section VIII, the governing body of high school sports in Nassau County, filed a motion Wednesday to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Massapequa’s school district that sought to overturn its decision to postpone high school sports until 2021.

The Section VIII filing states not only that its superintendents' board did not overstep when it voted unanimously to delay the start of sports because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, but also that Massapequa’s school district disregarded a pair of options to appeal the decision and instead went straight to filing the lawsuit.

The Massapequa Union Free School District’s suit filed on Sept. 9 in State Supreme Court of Nassau County called the decision by the superintendents' board "arbitrary and capricious" and states that the Section VIII constitution requires voting by all 50 Nassau school districts to make such a decision and not just the seven members of the superintendents' board.

The Massapequa school district is seeking to overturn the decision to delay sports and direct Section VIII to begin sports on Monday as permitted by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s guidance.

"I don’t know who Massapequa is planning to play against," said Joseph Carbonaro, the attorney for Section VIII. "The majority of Section VIII’s members don’t want to start the season yet. And none of the other school districts in Nassau County joined the Massapequa lawsuit."

Section VIII announced on Aug. 26 that it would postpone all sports until 2021 and instead play three compressed seasons between January and June.

"The idea of wanting to put the health of kids and siblings and family members and teachers and coaches in danger? To put it mildly, it’s not worth it," Carbonaro said.

All motions related to the lawsuit are due Friday before Judge Jack Libert will deliberate on the matter.

On Thursday, Section VIII convened a meeting of its athletic council where a vote affirmed the superintendents' board decision to delay the fall season. The vote on a 16-member quorum was 12-2 with two recusals. Representatives from Bethpage and Manhasset voted against reaffirming the decision; representatives of Massapequa and Roslyn recused themselves.

"The Section VIII superintendents' board met with the Section VIII executive committee on Wednesday and met with the Section VIII athletic council on Thursday to discuss the postponement of fall athletics," said Pat Pizzarelli, the section executive director. "Both groups voted to affirm the superintendents’ decision to postpone fall sports until later in the school year. After looking at recent increases in the positive cases in our schools in Nassau County, the superintendents' board reaffirmed their decision to postpone."

Pizzarelli said the start dates for sports will be determined and announced some time next week, but declined to discuss the pending litigation on advice of counsel.

Section VIII was the first of the state’s 11 sections to opt for playing three seasons in 2021. Section XI (Suffolk County) and Section IV (Southern Tier) ultimately made the same decision; Section VI (Ulster, Sullivan and Orange counties) moved its start date to Nov. 30; Section I (Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess and Putnam counties) is delaying its start to Sept. 29.

With Gregg Sarra

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