Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Students again wear 'Catalano' slogans - MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL

Shirts supporting teacher charged with sexual assault are confiscated
By TOM KERTSCHER
tkertscher@journalsentinel.com
Posted: April 26, 2005

Germantown - High school administrators confiscated two more "Free Catalano" T-shirts Tuesday, and the superintendent threatened more severe action if students persist in public expressions of support for a teacher who has been charged with sexually assaulting two students at the school.

The shirts express support for science teacher James E. Catalano, who was arrested at the school last Tuesday after two 16-year-old girls told police he indecently touched them on several occasions inside the school.

Superintendent Victor Rossetti said "Free Catalano" T-shirts were taken from two female students at the school Tuesday. Shirts with the same message had been confiscated from two female students on Monday and from half a dozen male students last Thursday, he said.

"We're continuing to send the message out that we'll protect the due process rights of the teacher and, certainly, to the utmost, we will continue to protect the young ladies" who made the allegations, Rossetti said.

So far, no students have faced discipline for wearing the shirts, but Rossetti said "we will step it up if it doesn't cease."

A school cannot censor students simply because it believes their expressions might offend someone, said Madison criminal defense and constitutional law attorney Erik Guenther. But a school can take action such as confiscating T-shirts if it determines that the expressions would "substantially interfere" with the operation of the school, he said.

Catalano, 33, of Richfield is charged with two counts of sexual assault of a student by school staff and one count of child enticement, all felonies. Rossetti said counselors from Washington County will visit the school today to offer assistance to students and staff. He said parents were informed of the case last week.

In addition to teaching, Catalano also is an assistant football and track coach at the high school.

He also had worked part-time as manager of the Fox Point Municipal Pool, but was suspended from that post last week after his arrest.

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