Two weeks ago on May 25, I wrote the headline, “Conestoga High School Hazing Fallout: Football Coach Sues T/E School District Administrators”. We learned that Thomas Batgos, an assistant Conestoga High School football coach fired by the T/E School District in the aftermath of the alleged hazing and sexual assault had filed a lawsuit against District administrators – Superintendent Dr. Richard Gusick and CHS Principal Dr. Amy Meisinger. The lawsuit cited defamation of character, misrepresentation, fraud, improper termination, etc. and seeks damages of at least $50K in compensation plus punitive damages.
In April, I wrote about Arthur Phillips (age 67), a male instructional aide in the television production studio at Conestoga High School, who was charged with having sex with a 15 year old female student from January to April of this year. According to the victim, they had sex on more than 10 occasions and that Phillips also groped and sexually assaulted her. Hundreds of sexual text messages were found on both of their cell phones, including a picture that Phillips texted the victim of his genitals. Phillips was charged with statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors and related offenses.
Today we learn from an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, that a federal lawsuit was filed against TE School District by the parents of the girl, seeking at least $75K in damages and calling for the resignation of Conestoga High School Principal Dr. Amy Meisinger.
According to the article, the lawsuit claims that the District was aware of the improper conduct of Phillips and “created an environment that allowed the assaults to occur”.
The Inquirer article states, “According to the suit, Phillips took the girl from the Conestoga campus to buy her meals, took her shopping, and “groomed” her during and after the school day. The lawsuit alleges a teacher and her husband went to dinner on a “double date” with the girl and Phillips and that other teachers knew Phillips was taking the girl off campus during the school day. An aide referred to the girl as “Art’s girlfriend” to several teachers, the suit said.”
How in the world could a teacher go on a double date with Phillips and the 15-year old student? And the relationship was known by teachers at the high school and the victim is called “Art’s girlfriend”. How is it possible that this could go on and no one knows? I just do not understand.
The original article has been updated to include a statement from the District’s solicitor, who claims that the accusations against the school district are false, that no staff (including Principal Dr. Amy Meisinger) knew of the relationship between Phillips and the student until contacted by Tredyffrin Township police.
An interesting point is made in the lawsuit – Phillips wrote hall passes for the girl to miss classes and that between January and mid-April, she missed 20 English classes. Isn’t there some kind of parental notification when a student misses that many classes? What is the policy?
The parents also claim that there was no review of camera footage at by District employees which would have shown Phillips repeatedly leaving Conestoga High School with the girl. According the lawsuit, the sexual assaults occurred in the high school parking lot, Phillips car and office and in Conestoga’s production studio. Again, I would ask — what is the policy for reviewing camera footage? School security has been an ongoing focus of the school board, which would presumably include routine review of the cameras. I would think that if you have a student missing 20 classes during a relatively short time span, and there is an aide who is writing the passes, shouldn’t this cause an internal investigation, which might include a review of the camera footage? Just asking the question, do not know if there is a process currently in place and it was ignored or if such a process doesn’t exist.
There is also the potential of another lawsuit against TE School District. Remember the 26-year old Conestoga coach and teacher’s aide Christine Towers who had a sexual relationship with a 16 year old learning disabled student who she tutored. Towers received a jail time of 11 to 23 months. Now the parents of that boy are also considering a federal lawsuit against the District.
I have been harping about what I see as public information and transparency problems, most recently as it related to the three contracts due to expire in 3 weeks – TEEA (teachers), TENIG (non-instructional) and Act 93 (administrators). The monthly school board meeting is on Monday, June 12 where the final budget for the 2017-18 school year needs to be approved and the status of the contracts is unknown. The contracts make up 70% of the school district budget but the public has received no updates.
I think the school board’s approach to public information needs to expand to include lawsuits. In two weeks, two lawsuits have been filed against the school district with the potential of a third lawsuit. My guess is that the school board will make no mention of the lawsuits at the upcoming school board meeting. It’s easier to pretend that it isn’t really happening.
A few weeks ago, the school board reappointed Ken Roos as the District solicitor for another year, July 1 – June 30, 2018 at a rate of $180/hr. Wouldn’t you love to know what the taxpayers are spending on legal fees to Wisler Pearstine between lawsuits and contract negotiations? Sadly, that would probably require filing a ‘right-to-know’ through Art McDonnell, and I have a feeling that the request would be denied.
By all accounts, Conestoga High School graduation last night was wonderful — congratulations to all our 2017 graduates and best wishes for the future!