What lessons have been learned at Perry Hall HS?

October 18, 2007 | Drew Forrester

For the last three days, I’ve tried to gather as much information as I could on the Nick Arminio dismissal-situation at Perry Hall High School.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, let me just give you the meat of the story — Arminio is (was) a highly successful football coach at Perry Hall who agreed to have his teaching license revoked in the 1990’s after allegations of sexual misconduct with female students at a Toms River (N.J.) high school in 1992.  Arminio agreed to the revocation of his teaching license in exchange for not having those misconduct charges pursued by the New Jersey Board of Education.  Years later, one of the students involved in the initial filing of the charges recanted her story and confessed that the details of her encounter with Arminio were made-up.  Arminio left New Jersey, worked for a while in Maryland at Eastern Vo Tech, and has spent the last six seasons at Perry Hall HS as their football coach (he is NOT teaching a class).

On October 2nd, an Associated Press reporter from New Jersey contacted Maryland school officials to ask if they were aware that Arminio had faced misconduct charges in Toms River back in 1992.  On October 4th, Perry Hall Principal Brian Gonzalez approached Arminio during practice and informed him he was being relieved of his duties as the football coach and was ordered to leave the premises.  Yes, it took exactly 48 hours for everyone involved at the school board and Perry Hall HS to do a full-scale investigation and dismiss Nick Arminio.  Or was it merely a rush to judgment?  Were all the facts known?  Or did someone – or several people, perhaps – at Perry Hall HS want Nick Arminio out?

That’s the brief, 200 word review.

If only it were that easy.

Please note this…and I offer this information so you can have a full understanding of my role in this “story”.  I don’t know Nick Arminio.  I wouldn’t know him if I saw him at the Royal Farm store tomorrow morning at 5:15 when I stop in for my morning coffee.  I don’t know anyone associated with Perry Hall High School.  I don’t know one soul on the football team.  I have, by the way, hit a lot of golf balls on the baseball fields at Perry Hall High School during some summer practice sessions, but that’s literally the only time I’ve ever stepped foot on the school’s property.

The reason I got involved in this story is because listeners asked me to.  A number of people affiliated with the Perry Hall athletic program are mystified at what has happened to the school’s football coach.  And, since the people at the Board of Education and Perry Hall HS aren’t saying anything, it leads everyone to wonder…”just what is going on here?”

Let me say this about Nick Arminio.  I now have, after doing nearly 3 hours on this subject throughout today’s Comcast Morning Show, approximately 80 e-mails about either Arminio or the Perry Hall High School situation.  I’d say 50 of those e-mails deal specifically with the character of Nick Arminio, both as a coach and a man.  The current count?  50 people say he’s a fine, upstanding individual.  0 people have sent me an e-mail telling me Nick Arminio is a rat fink.  Is that even humanly possible?  Can’t someone in Baltimore County come forward and tell me something unsavory about Nick Arminio?  Evidently not.

Now, that’s not to say that Arminio hasn’t ruffled some feathers at Perry Hall HS in his capacity as the football coach.  I’m aware of at least one instance in which Arminio butted heads with another coach at Perry Hall over the use of an equipment room and “office space” and Arminio’s position – “I’m the football coach – we are priority #1 here” – was not well received by some staffers at the school.  But that coach was also quick to point out that Arminio never again stepped out of line and may have been “marking his territory” more than anything else during this isolated incident.  Still, that’s about the only “dirt” I’ve been able to uncover on Nick Arminio.

There are rumors – strong rumors, in fact – that Arminio and Perry Hall HS Athletic Director Kathy Graybeal have openly feuded over the years.  I reached Ms. Graybeal this week and asked her to visit with me so I could ask the necessary questions about both Arminio’s dismissal and the stories I’ve heard about her obvious and public dislike for him, but Ms. Graybeal refused comment.

I’m also hearing about a teacher at Perry Hall who developed a strong dislike for Arminio and may have, in fact, contributed to the discovery of the “Toms River incident” by delving deeply into Arminio’s past and then alerting a local news agency in New Jersey.

There is another item at hand that deserves investigation.  How did Nick Arminio get hired at Eastern Vo Tech and then, later on, at Perry Hall?  Did someone at the Board of Education not fulfill his or her obligation by completing a full scale background investigation on Arminio?  Did Arminio falsify his employment application when he applied for a position at Eastern Vo Tech and/or Perry Hall?  A former school board employee who contacted me today tells me Arminio did NOT falsify his employment application when he filed it for the Eastern Vo Tech position.  There is a possibility, I was also told today, that Arminio did not fill out an application when he was hired as the Perry Hall coach (he was not applying for a teacher/coach position – only a coaching position)…a mistake that would certainly be the responsibility of the school board.  Section 13 of the current Baltimore County Board of Education employment application asks the question:  “Have you ever had your teaching certificate suspended or revoked?”.  This would be a question that Arminio, if completing the application truthfully, would have had to answer “yes” to in 2002, given that his license was officially revoked in New Jersey in 1999 after several years of legal wrangling with the New Jersey Board of Education following the “Toms River incident”.

And I think we’d all agree – parents or not – that if Nick Arminio checked off “no” on that box in Section 13 in 2002, the Baltimore County Board of Education would have every right to terminate him in 2007 if it was discovered – no matter how or why…no matter if it’s a witch hunt, a personal vendetta, etc. — that he falsified his employment application.

What happened to Nick Arminio in 1992 in New Jersey is something we’ll never know.  Arminio clearly had a very serious issue on his hands.  He had, at that point, three female students accusing him of various forms of sexual misconduct.  While professing his innocence to this day, it’s only fair to note that Arminio settled the situation by agreeing to have his teaching license revoked as long as the charges against him weren’t pursued by the school board.  That said, it’s equally fair and just as important to note that Nick Arminio was absolutely never found guilty of those charges and, to that degree, never even faced those charges in a court of law or a council of Board of Education members.

So why then, 15 years later, has Nick Arminio been terminated here in Maryland?

No one knows and no one is saying.  Nick Arminio says he hasn’t yet been told why he’s been fired.  The Board of Education isn’t talking.  Brian Gonzalez and Kathy Graybeal are taking lessons from the Orioles and not offering any response or comment other than “no comment”.

And, meanwhile, the kids at Perry Hall High School aren’t learning the right lesson here either.  What are they being taught?  Not much.

The details are so vague and the follow up is so poor that the only things the kids are learning is bitterness.

If Nick Arminio deserved to be fired because, in the Board of Education’s expert opinion, he is somehow a danger to the children at Perry Hall High School, all they have to do is say that, provide the evidence, and everyone would most certainly be OK with that.

But there’s not one person out there – anywhere – who has contacted me to say Nick Arminio is a bad guy who shouldn’t be trusted.

And more importantly, there’s no tangible evidence anywhere to support the (false) claim – by anyone, including the snooping wanna-be-private-eyes at Perry Hall – that Nick Arminio wiggled his way out of a legal jam in 1992 that should still be punishable today, 15 years later.

Let’s hope the Baltimore County Board of Education doesn’t consider this a closed matter and continues to look not only at themselves, but at the situation at Perry Hall High School, to determine if an injustice has been done to Nick Arminio and the students.