Anne Higonnet GRD ’88, the wife of famous Yale economics professor John Geanakoplos ’75, is headed for a battle in court, stemming from a recent confrontation outside Worthington Hooker Middle School on Whitney Avenue.
Higonnet, who lives behind the school on Everit Street, and her alleged victim, Hooker School parent Stephanie Brooks, failed to reach an agreement at closed door meetings with a court-appointed mediator Friday at New Haven Superior Court.
On Jan. 15, Higonnet allegedly yelled and grabbed Brooks’s coat as Brooks was dropping off her daughter at the Hooker School’s Everit Street gate, despite a school policy asking parents to use the Whitney Avenue entrance. Following the incident, a police officer charged Higonnet, who teaches art history at Barnard College, with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. But on Thursday, Brooks’ lawyer, Diane Polan ’73 LAW ’80, wrote to the state attorney’s office urging the office to pursue risk of injury to a minor and reckless endangerment charges against Higonnet. While Reckless endangerment is a misdemeanor charge, risk of injury to a minor is a felony charge.
In her letter, Polan, a civil rights lawyer and former Hooker School parent, wrote that Higonnet tried to open the door of Brooks’s moving car while Brooks’s young daughter sat in the back seat.
“I find it difficult to understand why the police officer charged her only with disorderly conduct,” Polan wrote. Reached at home Sunday evening, Polan declined further comment.
Higonnet’s lawyer, Timothy Pothin, of the New-Haven based firm Lynch Traub Keefe & Errante, said Sunday his client denies making physical contact with Brooks and that she feels “terrible” about the incident. Pothin also denied the allegation that Higonnet had recklessly endangered anyone, saying “the notion that somehow lives were endangered is patently absurd.”
The Hooker School’s Everit Street gate has long been a source of tension in the East Rock neighborhood.
After a years-long court battle with several Everit Street residents, the Hooker School moved to 691 Whitney Ave. in December. To assuage neighbors’ concerns that the school would generate increased noise and traffic on Everit Street, principal Robert Rifenburg directed parents to drop off their children only at the Whitney Avenue entrance.
Rifenburg called the incident between Brooks and Higonnet a matter of “growing pains” as the school adjusts to a new neighborhood.
Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, who represents the neighborhood, said that while the Everit Street gate has generated strong emotions, the neighborhood wants to move forward.
Meanwhile Brooks, who rejected an apology from Higonnet immediately after the incident and a pre-trial settlement Friday, continues to press her case.
The case will likely be assigned to a prosecutor at the New Haven Superior Court and be heard Feb. 26, Pothin said.