avon old farms

Prep School Transparency: Did Administrators Share Timely Information About Campus Voyeur?

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Just how private is a private school supposed to be?

That was the question after NBC Connecticut Investigates learned a prestigious boarding school didn’t appear to immediately share key details about allegations of voyeurism and other crimes on its campus.

Right now, 19-year-old John Zadrozny’s biggest assignment is showing up for court.

In early 2021, he was a senior at Avon Old Farms, a boys boarding and day school. He was a strong student, varsity baseball player, elected school “warden” - somewhat equivalent to class president - even profiled in the AOF magazine.

Then early last year, police in Watertown and Avon opened investigations into Zadrozny on allegations of voyeurism and possession of child pornography on the AOF campus.

We shared what we learned with Lea Wolf, whose organization ‘Let’s Speak Up’ helps student victims of school misconduct.

“Students are most vulnerable stakeholders in the school system,” Wolf said.

We spoke with attorney Eric MacLeish, who has represented Catholic church abuse survivors, and more recently, prep school abuse victims.

He said he has been involved in “about 200 cases against private schools since 2015.”

Watertown Police said they learned Zadrozny, while posing as a 17-year-old girl from their town on Snapchat last year, got roughly two dozen boys to send him explicit photos and videos. So far, none have been identified as AOF students.

Detective Mark Conway confirmed the photos and videos were explicit, and there was more than one.

Avon Police investigators said in 2019 and 2020, Zadrozny secretly recorded videos of male students in various stages of undress, in showers and locker rooms at school.

“They know it's wrong, but they think they can get away with that because of their position of power,” Wolf said.

“You have a very well-regarded student, very charismatic…the resident advisor for a freshman boys dorm…who was in a position to sexually exploit and take images of students at that school,” MacLeish added.

Zadrozny, who was disenrolled from AOF last year, was not entirely truthful when questioned by school administrators, according to police.

Avon Police Lt. John Schmalberger said Zadrozny initially denied everything, then admitted to some things, “because he said he was embarrassed.”

Zadrozny and his attorney have declined to give a statement to police and are contesting his charges. They also declined to speak with NBC Connecticut Investigates.

We asked the school to speak with us about the Zadrozny case, as well.

They provided the following email to NBC Connecticut Investigates:

“…We cannot provide details about student matters. Having said that, once we became aware of concerns about this student, we immediately contacted the police, removed the student from campus, and fully cooperated with the resulting police investigation. We have been careful not to disclose any information that would compromise the integrity of any police investigation. When he was arrested by the Avon Police Department in September, we notified our community, including parents and alumni…This individual has not been enrolled at Avon Old Farms since April 23, 2021, and we have not provided recommendations for other schools.  We will continue to support law enforcement as may be needed moving forward.”

NBC Connecticut Investigates had obtained that letter to the community previously from an AOF parent that did not want to speak on the record.

As AOF said, it sent out the statement on Sept. 8, 2021.

That was one day after its students’ fall move in and Zadrozny’s arrest by Avon Police. It was also at least five months since the school first learned of the accusations against him.

“You have to have outreach, you have to have honesty, you have to let people know,” MacLeish said.

The AOF statement said a student, acting alone, was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography, adding it “was a result of online activity and did not include any members of our community.”

However, the police reports said Zadrozny did have a photo on his phone of someone believed to be an unclothed 16-year-old AOF student. He also had a naked photo of a 14-year-old AOF student saved as a “like” on one of his Twitter accounts.

“The statements are a bit misleading and inconsistent with the police report,” Wolf said of the AOF letter to the community.

The AOF statement also addressed the charges of voyeurism on campus, saying while it may have involved AOF students, “the quality of the images is such that they do not identify any recognizable individual.”

Investigators did seem more certain in their reports. They said in one affidavit, they saw 16 screenshots Zadrozny stored on his laptop from videos he took in bathrooms and locker rooms around the AOF campus. The screenshots showed “various unidentified AOF students in various states of undress.”

"There are things that we know that happened that are beyond dispute, cameras in bathrooms, cameras in locker rooms, nude photographs of AOF students, we know that. It's in the arrest warrant affidavit,” MacLeish said.

The Avon police report added investigators were not able to look at everything on Zadrozny’s laptop because the state lab that processed it does not have the software for a full forensic download.

All this has underscored the seriousness of this situation, and the potential risk that remains.

The police reports said Zadrozny was able to delete some of the items he kept electronically and it’s not clear if AOF administrators viewed all the photos and videos investigators discovered.

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