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Sunday, March 18 News

Former Outback program director pleads not guilty

The arrest warrant issued for Andrew Barer, the former Outback Teen Center youth program director charged by New Canaan police with second-degree breach of peace Feb. 27, states that he used vulgar language to a group of Saxe Middle School students, lifted a boy off the ground and took the contact information for several of them while speaking about the Outback at the school cafeteria Jan. 15.

Barer, 52, of 8 Hayes St., Easton, pleaded not guilty in Norwalk Superior Court Wednesday.

The warrant states that Barer told a group of eight to 10 boys at the cafeteria that if they didn't start attending the Outback, he would "kick their a----" and "cut off their d----."

Barer denied making such comments and said he would never threaten a child, according to the warrant signed by New Canaan Sgt. Carol Ogrinc.

Saxe Principal Greg Macedo escorted Barer off the school grounds after learning about the incident and contacted police the next day, according to police.

Barer had been hired by the Outback in November as a part-time youth program director. He was terminated Jan. 17 -- one day after police started the investigation.

Barer entered the school at about 11 a.m. with Sangeeta Appel, president of the Outback's board of directors, according to the warrant. Appel, who's also a member of the Board of Education, walked Barer throughout the school before leaving him to speak with the students during lunchtime in the cafeteria, where he was for about 90 minutes, the warrant states. Barer said Appel asked him to go to the school with her to meet a few people and share ideas with students, according to the document.

Macedo told police a teacher heard Barer make inappropriate statements to a table of fifth-grade boys and that he "lifted a boy off the ground by lifting him under the armpits," Ogrinc wrote in the warrant. Macedo told police he contacted the parents of all the children involved and that Barer would no longer be allowed on school premises, according to the document.

Macedo told police that a parent emailed Steven Clapp, a fifth-grade administrator, on the day of the incident to report that his or her child came home and claimed that an Outback representative had spoken of boys' private parts and used vulgar language while speaking about the teen center during lunchtime, Ogrinc wrote.

Macedo said he and Clapp interviewed four fifth-graders involved and that they all confirmed Barer had made such comments and that he asked them if they were interested in going to Alaska, the warrant states. Barer told them he knew Otto Kilcher from Discovery Channel's reality show "Alaska: The Last Frontier," according to the document. The kids also told Macedo and Clapp that Barer went to a group of girls who were sitting at a nearby table and told them that "the boys are a pain in the a--," Ogrinc wrote.

After interviewing the parents of five of the kids involved, Ogrinc concluded Barer "caused annoyance and alarm when he used vulgar and inappropriate language in the cafeteria at Saxe Middle School," the warrant states.

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Under state law, "a person is guilty of breach of the peace when, with intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, such person in a public place, uses abusive or obscene language or makes an obscene gesture."

Ogrinc also believes that Barer attempted to contact at least two of the boys on their cellphones one day after the incident, according to the document.

During the investigation, the mother of one of the boys told Ogrinc that someone called her son's cellphone eight times on Jan. 16, but she said no one spoke and she just heard "mumbling," the warrant states.

When police asked Barer if he had tried to contact any of the involved students, Barer said "Oh God no, I would never do that," Ogrinc wrote in the warrant.

Barer told police that while he was at the cafeteria talking about the Outback to a group of fifth-grade boys, he asked them if they had any ideas he could consider, Ogrinc wrote. Barer said he handed the boys a notebook and asked them to write their names along with their cellphone numbers and email addresses if they were interested about the Outback, according to the document.

At that point, Barer told police, he was conflicted as to whether he should have had the boys give out such information, Ogrinc wrote. Barer said Appel later told him that Board of Education members made complaints regarding him taking personal information of fifth-graders, the warrant states. He told Ogrinc he "pleaded partially guilty to that," according to the document.

He also said there was a kid standing in his path, so he picked him up about 2 inches off the floor, according to the warrant.

Barer told police that when the investigation started, he started "racking his brain" trying to figure out what some kids may have heard, Ogrinc wrote. When police told him what the boys heard, Barer did not have an explanation and said he never would say that to a child, the warrant states.

He told police, however, that while speaking with a group of sixth-grade boys, a student came up with a good idea for the Outback, the document shows. Barer said he told the boy "you're a genius," Ogring wrote. Right after that, another boy said, "Haha, you called him a penis," Barer told police. Barer said he immediately corrected the boy, according to the warrant.

Ogrinc, who interviewed the parents of five of the boys involved, wrote that one mother said her son told her that Barer swore a lot and said "sh--" a few times. The woman told police that someone called her son eight times Jan. 16 from a 516 area code phone number. She said the caller stopped after she picked up the phone and threatened to call the police, the warrant shows. Another mother said her son received six phone calls that same day from the same number, according to the document.

Police learned that the 516 is a prepaid phone number linked to RNK Communications. Police applied for a search warrant for the number's telephone records, which they still haven't received from the company, according to Ogrinc.

Barer is the founder and director of the life coaching organization Wingspan Academy, where he gives young men professional advice on their personal issues. He is a certified master, life and youth and family coach.

He's scheduled to return to court April 10.

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson

Nelson Oliveira|Education/general assignment reporter