Teammates of Long Island teen who died in football drill to sue over counseling

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Sachem East High School football players on Long Island are suing their school district for not providing proper mental health counseling after the death of one of their teammates.

The families of three players on the Sachem High School East football team are seeking to sue the Sachem Central School District for allegedly not providing sufficient mental health counseling after one of their teammates was killed on the field during a drill last summer.

The families of team captain Matthew Kmiotek, Nicholas Paolucci and Joseph Udaze, Jr., are asking a judge for permission to file a late notice of claim against the school district. The claim would seek $15 million in damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress and to cover the money the families have spent on private counseling.

"We're bringing a claim to tell the district you can't do this to the people," attorney Ken Mollins said. "You have a duty to protect."

The students said the district only provided two 45-minute counseling sessions with Long Island Trauma Center, and the sessions were held months after the incident.
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Kristin Thorne reports on the families of three Sachem East High School football players who are seeking to sue their school district.

"These professionals, these people specifically trained in this type of counseling for this type of trauma, should have been brought into the school immediately," said Michael Paolucci, Nicholas' father.

On August 10, 2017, football player Joshua Mileto and the three students were holding a large log over their heads as part of a drill. The log became unstable and dropped onto Mileto's head, crushing his skull.

"It's very hard to cope with," Kmiotek said. "It's something that's burned into my head. I think about it a lot."

Nicholas Paolucci said he also has a hard time erasing the image from his head of what happened to Mileto.

"I basically see everything again, every night that I sleep," he said. "The school could have done a lot more to help us with this, but they haven't."

The school district's superintendent, Dr. Kenneth Graham, said in a statement to Eyewitness News, "The health, safety, and mental well-being of all our students and staff continues to be our top priority. The district enacted steps to provide in-district and out-of-district support services to our student body and staff. Counseling services are available on an on-going basis for anyone in need."

The parents said the team should have received group counseling with mental health professionals trained in trauma.

"Yes, the school had counselors there," Maryann Kmiotek said. "Who is able to handle what happened? Who's able to really handle what these boys are feeling?"

The parents spoke at several school board meetings and with school officials, demanding more counseling. They said they were told more counseling would be provided but that it never was.

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