A second teenage student who was the victim of institutional sexual assault by a teacher at Plum Senior High School has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the school district, the borough and four current or former employees.
The 41-page federal complaint filed Friday identifies the plaintiff only as “Jane Doe” but said the defendants know her identity. It says she was 17 and subsequently 18 during times relevant to the lawsuit.
Named as defendants are the Plum Borough; the Plum Borough School District; high school principal Ryan Kociela; school district superintendent Timothy Glasspool; Jason Cooper, a high school teacher now serving an 18- to 36-month prison sentence in the case; and Mark Kost, who served as a Plum police officer and school resource officer at the high school, working as a liaison between the school district and borough police.
Mr. Kociela and Mr. Glasspool were placed on paid administrative leave in May while an investigation of the district's sex scandal was conducted. Mr. Glasspool was reinstated by the school board; Mr. Kociela remains on leave.
The suit demands a jury trial and a judgment in excess of $75,000 as well as punitive damages, interest, costs and other damages.
The lawsuit, which includes five counts, alleges violations of the plaintiff’s constitutional rights; sexual harassment in violation of federal law; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligence; and sexual assault and battery.
Specifically, the suit alleges that Cooper “by engaging in and pleading guilty to institutional sexual assault and corruption of minors” violated Jane Doe’s 14th Amendment rights, including but not limited to due process and equal protection rights. The suit also says Cooper engaged in sexual assault and battery.
According to the complaint, the plaintiff told police she began having conversations with Cooper of a personal nature during school hours in late 2014. She said Cooper fondled her and spoke in a sexual manner while she was a minor and that she engaged in sexual intercourse with him five or six times after she turned 18.
It says the school district, Mr. Kociela, Mr. Glasspool and Mr. Kost also violated those rights “under a state-created danger theory.”
If further claims that Mr. Kost and the borough violated the plaintiff’s due process rights “under a failure to investigate/reckless investigation theory.”
It said the district, Mr Kociela and Mr. Glasspool by policy, custom or practice “conducted their own investigations into possible serious crimes, including sexual assault, even when the administrators conducting the investigations were conflicted and compromised rather than turning such matters over to authorities such as the police department ...”
It says under a borough policy, the school resource officer would step aside and permit the school district “to conduct its own compromised investigations of possible serious crimes, including sexual assault ...”
The lawsuit says the school district, Mr. Kociela and Mr. Glasspool protected teachers over the safety of students and would not document controversial matters for the protection of the school district and teachers “to the detriment of students.” It further alleges that failure to adequately train staff “reflects a deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of Plum Senior High School students, including Jane Doe.”
The lawsuit alleges that Cooper sexually harassed Jane Doe but the response of school officials “amounted to deliberate indifference.”
In September, another victim of sexual assault filed suit in U.S. District Court, charging that school administrators refused to investigate the matter or inform police.
That woman, identified as Jane Doe, was 17 when teacher Joseph Ruggieri, 41, began a sexual relationship with her, the lawsuit states. Ruggieri, who was vice president of the teacher's union, pleaded guilty in April to charges as a result of the relationship and is serving a prison term of two to five years.
Bill Schackner: email@example.com, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG.
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