SCASB settles $130K lawsuit
CATAWISSA R.R. - The Southern Columbia Area School Board has approved settlement of a 2012 lawsuit in U.S. District Court that alleged the school district failed to protect an assault victim from intimidation.
The board voted 8-0 to settle the May 2012 suit that was brought by a then-18-year-old former female student against the district and high school principal James Becker. She claimed the district and Becker did nothing to keep two athletes who sexually assaulted her in 2009 in an out-of-school incident separated from her.
Superintendent Paul Caputo said Tuesday a settlement for $130,000 was paid by the district's insurance carrier, Liberty Mutual Insurance.
The female alleged in the suit that district officials refused to do anything to discipline the two boys or keep them from her because the two were star athletes in several sports.
As a result of the alleged district inaction, the girl's parents obtained a no-contact order from Northumberland County Judge William H. Wiest directing that the two males not have any direct or indirect verbal and physical direct with her. Southern was also directed to take appropriate steps to ensure that the parties had no contact during the school day.
Despite that, the suit maintained, the two males and the female had shared lunch periods where the two boys defiantly sat just a few feet away from her at a lunch table.
The suit alleged that the district failed to protect the girl from confrontations with other students who made rude comments and from friends of the boys who warned that she should not do anything that inhibited their ability to participate in athletics.
School district employees testified on behalf of the two male students during separate criminal hearings. The male students were later adjudicated delinquent and dependent in juvenile court and sentenced to boot camp.
According to the lawsuit, in 2010, during a track team practice, the girl saw one of the boys running directly behind her, just a few feet away. The experience caused her to quit the team.
At the end of the school year, a teacher allegedly told her she would have to leave the room when one of the two boys was in the same room where she was scheduled to take a final exam, and then no further action was taken.
According to court documents, the "final straw" came on Aug. 30, 2010, when district solicitor Richard Roberts intervened to assist one of the boys in amending the no contact order so he could gain flexibility for his lunch schedule.
The female eventually left Southern Columbia to finish her education in cyber school after the district allegedly refused to support her effort to transfer to a local high school.
There was no notation about the settlement in the history of court documents in the case on the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) website for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in U.S. District Court.