After some two-dozen emotional and heated public testimonies on Tuesday night, Nyack’s school board voted unanimously to remove the name and references to a decorated and deceased Nyack High School baseball coach from all district facilities or endeavors associated with the district.
The board was urged to take action by a large group of former players who allege their former coach Dave Siegriest — whose name adorns Nyack’s baseball field and scoreboard and who died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 46 [corrected from earlier version that said he died at 43] — turned a blind eye to players who say they were being groomed and sexually abused by about the two of his assistant coaches during his tenure as head of the varsity program. (No one is accusing Siegriest of sexual abuse, and nobody has been criminally charged over the allegations.)
A day after the vote for removing Siegriest’s name from district facilities and awards, Nyack’s school board released a statement saying their lawyer, along with the board, had conducted a year-long investigation that including 27 interviews and more than “100 communications.”
The Board’s conclusion was essentially that they couldn’t prove Siegrist knew or should have known about the alleged abuse, but they went ahead with the vote because people being officially memorialized by the district should be held to a higher standard that Siegriest, in their view, didn’t meet.
The statement said that “based on the totality of the investigation, [the board’s lawyer] cannot conclude with a reasonable degree of certainty that Mr. Siegriest knew or should have known of the alleged abuse.
“However, we, as a Board, seek the highest standards of excellence. The Board believes that anyone the District memorializes must be beyond reproach. Based on all of the information we have taken into consideration, concerns have arisen for this Board as to whether Mr. Siegriest met these standards.”
Aside from whatever was uncovered in the investigation, Board was clearly influenced by the players who formed a coalition known as Nyack Baseball Alumni for Truth, Transparency & Support and created an online petition signed by more than 100 former players.
Two former students, according to the Board’s statement, had approached the board in early 2023 to first discuss the removal of Siegriest’s name, which prompted the Board’s year-long investigation, which bounced between an attorney and the Clarkstown police department. Ultimately, that investigation did not result in any criminal complaints.
For more than an hour on Tuesday, speakers traded arguments for and against removing Siegriest’s name from the school’s field, scoreboard, a trophy case and multiple awards.
Those speaking in favor of keeping Siegriest’s name and accomplishments memorialized on official district facilities and efforts — including his widow, Margaret Siegriest, and several family and friends — said Siegriest was being scapegoated and essentially convicted of crimes without “due process” or any chance to defend himself.
(Update: Supporters of the Siegriest’s family compiled their own petition that held more than 1,400 signatures as of last week’s meeting.)
They said the real criminal who should be prosecuted is Peter Recla — an assistant under Siegriest who took over the program after the coach’s untimely death (he was dismissed a year later in 2007).
Recla was named in a civil suit filed in 2020 by former player Patrick D’Auria, who alleged the district was negligent in failing to prevent sexual abuse from 1996 to 2000.
In New York State, child abuse victims can file criminal charges against alleged abusers until they are 28 years old.
In 2022, an insurer for the district settled with D’Auria, who says he was satisfied with the outcome. Details about the settlement have not been made public, but the fact that the case had settled wasn’t made public either until D’Auria spoke to News 12 in November 2023.
The board said on Tuesday that it does not acknowledge any wrongdoing by Recla, and attorneys listed as Recla’s representatives in the civil case could not immediately be reached for comment.
As a mandated reporter, Siegriest was legally obligated to report any allegations he was aware of, whether he directly witnessed the abuse or not. (Margaret Siegriest and other speakers adamantly denied he had any knowledge of the abuse and proving he did would be impossible since he’s dead.)
At the meeting, however, multiple former players and other Nyack athletes who hung around the team said the signs of abuse, or at least potential abuse, by Recla were not only obvious, but that Siegriest was made aware of them on multiple occasions. One former player said Siegrist bullied him into not elevating his concerns further.
At one point in the meeting, Matt DeSimone, a star for the Nyack baseball team and teammate of D’Auria’s, read from the petition signed by the former players:
“We are your former Baseball players and we are no longer comfortable with the name Dave Siegriest and its association with the Baseball Field scoreboard, Memorial Tournament or Courage Award. While no one is accusing Dave Siegriest of sexual abuse, he was at best negligent. He failed to protect the kids for whom he was ultimately responsible as Head Coach of the Baseball team. He had the benefit of pattern recognition over 21 years spent by Peter Recla’s side. He neither listened to nor acted when members of the team, community or staff approached him directly with their credible and consistent concerns. Some of the undersigned are individuals who brought these concerns to Dave Siegriest. We may never fully understand why Dave Siegriest prioritized the reputation of his longtime assistant over the safety of Nyack’s players and the community’s children, but it is abundantly clear that that was the choice he made. He failed as a mandated reporter and the kids he coached suffered as a result. The broader community was made less safe.”
The board did not go into detail about their decision to go forward with the resolution or explain why they decided to vote for it.
Below is the exact wording of the resolution:
For more, read lohud’s in-depth coverage of the backstory here.
Here’s some of lohud’s video coverage from the meeting: