TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read)
- K.S. updates lawsuit filing in Federal court on May 10
- Argument insists K.S. was victim of an unfair hearing process
- Pottsville must answer charges it held a kangaroo court
The lawsuit filed by a Pottsville Area High School junior still insists he’s the victim of unfair punishment by school officials.
On May 10, K.S. (with his parents) filed an amended complaint against Pottsville Area School District. The lawsuit is filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Two weeks prior, the school district filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit entirely.
Comparing the original complaint filed earlier this year against the latest version, little has changed. Instead of 5 claims on which K.S. feels the court should rule in his favor, there are now just 4.
However, the argument remains largely the same: that Pottsville Area School District unfairly punished K.S. for his role in that “hazing” incident during the 2018 football season.
They did so by holding a kangaroo court to stack the odds against K.S., the lawsuit contends.
Ultimately, K.S. served a 10-day out-of-school suspension and missed a few varsity basketball games for his alleged role in a “hazing” incident in 2018.
Kangaroo Court Proceedings
As it’s outlined in this lawsuit — which Pottsville Area in its motion to dismiss the lawsuit doesn’t deny — the school held a biased hearing against K.S. The school presented a uniform story that put K.S. at the center of the so-called “hazing” incident.
During that incident, a group of high school juniors purportedly on the Pottsville Area football team, confronted a special needs man in the football locker room. This man, 25, is regularly with the Pottsville Area sports teams, specifically the football and boys’ basketball teams.
What’s alleged is rather sickening. Students allegedly danced nude in front of the man. One reportedly took a lollipop, put it where it didn’t belong and then gave it to the man to eat.
However, in this latest complaint against Pottsville Area, K.S. still argues he’s definitely not the person who committed the more grotesque act that day. And while he denies any nude dancing around the man, he definitely denies coming into contact with him during the alleged incident.
Remember, this incident was reported to the school via anonymous letter.
And that’s all where the K.S. lawsuit comes into play.
Here’s how K.S. says the school went about conducting a kangaroo court hearing into the “hazing” incident:
The Anonymous Letter
For starters, K.S. contends the school typically disregarded anonymous letters in the past. However, after receiving this letter, the school began an investigation. “The district, in this case, conducted multiple interviews of each player on the football team regarding conduct in the locker room. K.S. was interviewed and specifically denied any wrongdoing,” the complaint states. “It’s is believed that the district was required to perform multiple interviews because initial interviews revealed contradictory information and conduct which would not rise to the level of any rule or regulation violations at Pottsville.”
On Feb. 8, 2019, the parents of K.S. were contacted and the school set up a meeting with them for the following Monday, Feb. 11.
The Feb. 11 Meeting
At that meeting on Feb. 11, the school allegedly wanted to lay out its case against K.S. And the school only tried to pin the illicit dancing portion of the incident on K.S.
However, the lawsuit argues that the school failed to prove K.S. made contact with the victim in this incident. The school never told K.S. and his parents how many times these incidents happened, either.
Regardless, the next day, K.S. and his parents met with High School Principal Tiffany Hummel, Assistant Principal Richard Boris, and Superintendent Jeff Zwiebel. That’s when K.S. received the 10-day out-of-school suspension. The school says K.S. violated the Pottsville Area School District Harassment Policy.
During that meeting, the parents of K.S. requested to see individual statements which pointed the finger at their son. They wanted a chance to counter the claims made against him. But the school did not oblige, the lawsuit claims.
Feb. 14 Hearing
Two days later, Pottsville held an informal hearing. At the hearing, the school didn’t call any witnesses or present any statements which proved K.S. was guilty of what they said.
However, K.S. did present 7 witnesses at the hearing. The witnesses backed up the K.S. side of the story. They said he did not “harass or engage in any conduct towards the alleged victim in violation of the school’s rules or regulations.” They had 8 more witnesses to say essentially the same thing as the first 7 but the school denied them a chance to testify.
To be clear, the policy in question specifically states the harassment must inhibit a student’s ability to learn. Since the alleged victim is not a student, K.S. says he could not be guilty of violating the school policy.
They also believe the alleged victim in this case has never said anything happened to him.
Hours after the hearing, the school told the parents of K.S. that it was upholding the suspension against their son.
Here’s how it reads in the court documents obtained by The Canary:
In addition to the kangaroo court hearing, K.S. and his parents allege the school district unfairly treated and punished him and not other students.
They say Pottsville Area did this to quell public anger that rose from hearing about the incident.
“It was based upon some other, unjustifiable motive, such as preserving the District’s public image and reputation in the face of public pressure and/or outcry for the district to take swift and definitive action against members of the football team who were implicated,” the lawsuit continues. “It is believed the district had meted out less severe punishment to student who had committed acts more egregious than those alleged to have been committed by K.S.”
In another part of the complaint, K.S. contends the school did allow other students alleged to have participated in this “hazing” incident to see evidence and statements against them.
Pottsville Area Must Answer These Questions
So, what K.S. alleges here is that following the receipt of the anonymous letter, the school conducted an initial investigation. That returned conflicting reports. It hauled K.S. and his parents into the school twice. Twice they say the school accused K.S. of dancing inappropriately near the alleged victim. But every chance the school had, it never presented any witnesses “publicly” before the accused.
If Pottsville Area has a legitimate case against K.S., they should have proven it by now.
The amended complaint filed in federal court against Pottsville Area demands a jury trial.
Every American is owed their day in court to defend themselves against accusations of wrongdoing. Even though the school, in its Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit, says it’s under no obligation to grant K.S. due process, the complaint argues it is required to do so. It says if the school is acting “under the color of state law” then it must hold a fair hearing.
Eventually, the school must answer some very serious questions:
Why didn’t it hold a fair hearing? Why not let a defendant call more witnesses? And why didn’t the school call any of its own witnesses?
Did the school hand out less severe punishments to other students? What are they accused of doing? And why was their punishment not as severe as the one leveled against K.S.?
The more this case drags through federal court, the more questions will be raised. But this one looms largest … Does the school have it in for K.S.?
READ OUR PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE POTTSVILLE “HAZING” INCIDENT:
- School Files Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit
- Pottsville Sweeping “Hazing” Under the Rug
- Pottsville Hazing Cover-up – More Than a Football Incident
- Alleged “Hazing” at Pottsville School Exposes Failed Leadership, Puts Students at Risk
- Pottsville Athletic Director, Football Coach on Administrative Leave After “Hazing” Incident Uncovered