Posted by on April 27, 2019 5:59 pm

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pottsville hazing lawsuit update

Pottsville Area School District filed a motion in federal court Friday to dismiss a student’s lawsuit related to the “hazing” incident that happened in 2018.

According to court documents obtained by Coal Region Canary, the Motion to Dismiss was filed April 26 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania before judge Robert D. Mariani.

John E. Freund III filed the motion on behalf of Pottsville Area School District.

Pottsville’s motion Friday responds to a lawsuit filed by a high school junior and his parents on February 21. In that lawsuit, K.S. alleges Pottsville Area unfairly punished him for his purported role in a “hazing” incident last year.

The latest motion seeks to dismiss the entire lawsuit against the school district.

pottsville hazing update

The Motion to Dismiss the K.S. lawsuit by Pottsville Area School District. Note how the school’s own lawyer gets the name of his client wrong in the first paragraph.

Pottsville “Hazing” Incident

The Pottsville “hazing” incident came to light after an anonymous letter was submitted to school board members and administration as well as the local media.

In the letter, K.S. is identified as a student who danced naked and rubbed his genitals on or near an autistic man in the football locker room. The autistic man is often seen around the Pottsville High sports teams, particularly the football and boys’ basketball teams. He’s been granted access to these teams, according to the school.

The letter reportedly alleges the incident involves more than one student. It also details one player placing a lollipop on his anus and giving it to the victim in this incident to eat.

Following receipt of the letter, the school board and administration conducted some questionable investigations into the matter.

In the end, K.S. received a 10-day out-of-school suspension. His suspension also affected his ability to play varsity basketball as the school’s team was entering postseason competition.

Further, the school also suspended two members of its staff, the Athletic Director Eric Rismiller and Dean of Students Rusty Yost, who is also an assistant football coach.

After the suspension, K.S. returned to the basketball team but was held from the starting lineup for several minutes each game in the PIAA playoffs.

Amid all this, Pottsville also relieved the head football coach at the time, Tom McGeoy. The school eventually re-hired the coach (another story altogether). 

K.S. v. Pottsville Area School District

The lawsuit K.S. v. Pottsville Area School District is filed in federal court. In it, K.S., a Pottsville Area High School junior student, alleges he’s the victim of unfair and biased treatment by school officials.

The unfair treatment he alleges relates to the so-called hazing incident. The claims are outlined in 5 counts.

  • Count 1: The school’s 10-day suspension was “arbitrary, capricious, and prejudicial” to the student.
  • Count 2: Pottsville Area denied K.S. due process during an “informal hearing” after which the suspension was enforced. This argues K.S. was prohibited from calling witnesses on his behalf during an informal hearing at the school.
  • Count 3: K.S. was denied First Amendment “free expression” rights. In this count, K.S. argues the alleged naked dance — which he denies doing — was an expression, not a hostile act toward the autistic man. Essentially, this argues we’re all free to dance in various stages of undress in a locker room, per the U.S. Constitution.
  • Count 4: This alleges Pottsville Area acted with bias toward K.S. Normally, the lawsuit argues, the school ignores anonymous complaints. They say it’s been school policy.
  • Count 5: The policy which K.S. allegedly violated and caused his suspension is vague and unconstitutional. It also calls into question the validity of school policy. K.S. was allegedly suspended according to the school’s Harassment policy, which covers student v. student acts. In this case, the alleged victim is not a student.

K.S. wants the following to result from his lawsuit:

  • Compensatory damages
  • Compensation for attorney fees (represented by Pottsville lawyer Albert J. Evans, of Fanelli, Evans, and Patel)
  • Punitive damages
  • Suspension reversal
  • Incident removed from discipline record

Pottsville Hazing Lawsuit Update

In Friday’s Motion to Dismiss, the school argues against each count in the K.S. lawsuit. It says Judge Mariani should dismiss the lawsuit entirely.

“The claims and legal theories asserted in Plaintiffs’ complaint fail to state claim as a matter of law and, accordingly, should be dismissed,” Freund writes for the district.

On Counts 1 and 2, the school says students can’t appeal a 10-day school suspension in a court. The school also argues it met the requirement for granting due process, as it relates to this punishment. This requirement doesn’t afford K.S. the ability to question witnesses who spoke against him on this matter.

On Count 3, the school says the dance K.S. allegedly performed is not an expressive dance. Rather, it’s a “recreational dance” and not covered under First Amendment rights. The school adds, “Plaintiffs point to no evidence that would suggest this was an expressive activity or what message it was allegedly expressing.”

For Count 4, the school believes the argument K.S. is treated differently than others in this case is false.

“In fact,” Freund writes, “there is nothing in the complaint to even suggest that student is a member of protected class.” (sic)

Finally, the school argues against Count 5 of the K.S. lawsuit. It says the policy can’t be called into question. It doesn’t violate free expression rights, which they say already don’t apply to this case.

READ OUR PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE POTTSVILLE HAZING INCIDENT:

Photos: Coal Region Canary

5 responses to Pottsville Files Motion to Dismiss Hazing Lawsuit

  1. coalregion April 28th, 2019 at 8:59 am

    John O’Hara is laughing in his grave at this. 100 years later and Pottsville “elite” (small “e”) are still acting high and mighty.

    Reply

  2. K.D. April 30th, 2019 at 2:02 am

    What a joke this school district is bringing back the head coach. Not to mention the fact that the boys accused should be suspended from playing any sports this upcoming football season.

    With this coaching staff this team will be subpar at best. Such a shame because there are some really good athletes not being utilized properly to appease the Pottsville privileged kids. The same kids you find out in the bushes drinking and doing drugs on the weekends. Drug test the team and see how many kids are left. We would be fortunate to field a team of that happened.

    Reply

    • Benji April 30th, 2019 at 9:30 am

      They had no choice but to bring back the coach. NO ONE ELSE APPLIED. Pottsville was once a sought after coaching job,not anymore, those that run the district have seen to that. The mentality of the town and school is why he was hired years ago instead of WAY MORE qualified people in the first place. How bad is it when a known convicted felon is one of the most vocal people at the board meeting in support of him. That shows you all you need to know about the town and the district. Unfortunately the students suffer in the long run.

      Reply

  3. Billy May 1st, 2019 at 2:50 am

    The reason that convicted felon was petitioning for Mcgoey to get his job back is because he is one of the puppets that play his kids over other kids in both basketball and football. It’s very easy to connect the dots. Hell he is the one who cried to the board to get him his job so his kids could play and the crooked wife is in charge of the mothers boosters so they can control that aspect of it to just to keep the coach in check if he decides he wants to win and play the more deserving kids.

    This entire board is a disgrace and should not be re-elected so we can get people that want to store pride back into Pottsville.

    Reply

  4. K.S. Lawsuit Insists Pottsville Area School District Presided Over Kangaroo Court to Punish Him - Coal Region Canary May 19th, 2019 at 3:20 am

    […] School Files Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit […]

    Reply

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