sexual assault

Federal Judge Rules that the 2017 Sexual Assault Lawsuit against TE School District and Conestoga HS Principal Amy Meisinger Can Move Forward to a Jury Trial

Do you recall the 2017 federal lawsuit filed against T/E School District and Dr. Amy Meisinger, principal of Conestoga High School?

The federal lawsuit was filed by parents on behalf of their daughter, a 15-year old female student. The lawsuit alleged that administrators and teachers at the high school created and tolerated a culture that emboldened Art Phillips, a 67-year old instructional aide, to repeatedly sexually abuse their daughter. In the lawsuit, fourteen District administrators, teachers and aides were named, citing that they were aware of the inappropriate relationship with the student and alleges that they did nothing. (Click here to read lawsuit).

Phillips caught the attention of police when he crashed his car in what was said to be a suicide attempt. He left a note in the vehicle that read, “I was just a guy trying to help a kid and the boundaries just got gray.”

Former Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan criminally charged Phillips with 100 counts including statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and endangering the welfare of a child, among other related charges. According to the police investigation, the alleged victim was sexually assaulted by Phillips on more than 10 occasions from January until April of 2017. The incidents occurred in various areas in Tredyffrin Township, including in Phillips’ office at Conestoga High School.

In that same year, Phillips was found guilty of the charges and sentenced to 10-20 years for his criminal action. As a footnote, Phillips committed suicide in his Graterford prison cell a few months into serving his sentence. In 2019, Phillips widow, Phyllis Phillips sued the correctional institution, Corizon Health Inc., MHM Correctional Services Inc. and various doctors claiming that her late husband did not receive proper treatment in prison, which caused him to hang himself. No further update on Mrs. Phillips case.

The girl’s parents filed a federal lawsuit against the District saying that the Conestoga High School principal and officials in the school district were aware of “a parade of improper conduct” by a male aide and created an environment that allowed the assaults to occur. They were seeking at least $75,000 in damages from the District.

At the time of the lawsuit filing, Ken Roos, the District’s solicitor claimed that the accusations were false. He stated, “We have yet to see any evidence anybody knew of a sexual relationship between the student and this former aide, nor have we been advised of any by the police.” In response to the lawsuit, the District filed a 28-page “motion to dismiss” on August 14, 2017.

Fast forward three plus years and we have learned that the 2017 federal lawsuit against Tredyffrin Easttown School District and Amy Meisinger was not dismissed (as previously requested by the District).

A Memorandum by U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Jan DuBois (filed on October 23, 2020) allows that the lawsuit against the T/E School District can proceed. We also learned from the Memorandum that the plaintiff names (listed as A.B. and C.B.) in the lawsuit has changed. The parents (A.B. and C.B.) originally filed the lawsuit in 2017 on behalf of their daughter, who was 15 years old and a minor at the time. Now 18 years old, the former TESD student is the named plaintiff (D.B.) in the lawsuit against the school district. (Click here to read Memorandum.)

In his ruling, Judge DuBois denied the District’s request for summary judgment on three out of four counts in the lawsuit, including Title IX claims.

The plaintiff, D.B. alleges that the District was liable for the sexual assaults by Art Phillips and cites inadequate training by staff. D.B. claims that the school should have been on notice because of previous instances of misconduct committed by former staff and several specific examples are cited in the lawsuit.

Although the plaintiff argues the District staff was not properly trained in spotting staff misconduct, the attorney for the school district argued that its policies were adequate. However, according to the lawsuit, “Prior to February 27, 2017, TESD did not have a written policy that specifically addressed “precursor misconduct.” The District policy “was adopted on February 27, 2017, while Phillips’s misconduct with D.B. was ongoing.”

In his opinion, Judge Dubois states, “A reasonable jury could find that, in light of the previous incidents of sexual harassment at CHS that occurred under the same policies, the preexisting policies and training were inadequate such that other incidents were like to occur.”

The federal lawsuit against the Tredyffrin Easttown School District now heads to a jury trial.

In the words of John Lewis, “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.” According to the lawsuit, at least 14 District administrators, teachers and staff knew something was going on between Art Phillips and the 15-year old student — I just do not understand why someone didn’t say something.

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Conestoga High School Student Sexual Assault Case: Federal Lawsuit Filed — Lawsuit in Separate Case Pending

This is a follow-up post to my last post “TE School District served with another lawsuit” dated June 8. After posting the previous article, I was emailed a copy of the federal lawsuit and press release from Ross Feller Casey, the Philadelphia law firm who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the parents of the 15-year-old victim in the case.

In the Ross Feller Casey press release, it states that the law firm, “filed a federal lawsuit against the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District and the principal of Conestoga High School alleging administrators and teachers at the High School created and tolerated a culture that emboldened Arthur Phillips, a 67-year old instructional aide, to repeatedly sexually abuse a female student.”

Among other things, the federal lawsuit alleges that “Phillips, an instructional aide in the television production studio at Conestoga since 2006, engaged in a classic yet disturbing pattern of sexual grooming and assault against a student starting when she was only 15 years old.”

Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan has criminally charged Arthur Phillips with over 100 counts, including 10 felony charges of statutory sexual assault and 10 felony charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. According to the lawsuit, the sexual assaults were daily between January and mid-April of this year and allegedly “took place in various locations at Conestoga High School, including the school’s TV studio, Phillips’ office, Conestoga’s parking lot and in Phillips’ automobile”.

According to Pennsylvania state law, “Statutory sexual assault becomes a first-degree felony offense in cases when the accused is 11 years, or older, than the minor. If convicted of this charge, a person could face a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Additionally, he or she may be fined up to $25,000.” The minor in this case is a 15-year old female and the accused is a 67-year old male, 52 years her senior. And remember, the ten counts of statutory sexual assault is only one of the criminal charges against Phillips – if convicted, this man is going to prison for a very, very long time.

The lawsuit is against TE School District and Conestoga Principal Dr. Amy Meisinger, but numerous other CHS teachers and administrators are identified in the 36-page lawsuit. The lawsuit is a public document but because 14 different CHS teachers or administrators (in addition to Meisinger) are identified by name, I will not upload it to Community Matters. To be clear, the only T/E School District administrator being sued in this lawsuit is Meisinger.

I have read the lawsuit several times. It contains many graphic and sexually explicit details that do not need to be repeated here. As the mother of a daughter, I cannot imagine the horror of this situation for the girl and her family.

What is remarkable is the level of detail contained in the lawsuit of places that Phillips took the student during school hours and after school including Berwyn Pizza, Handel’s Ice Cream and restaurants such as Estia (Radnor), Christopher’s in Wayne and City Works Eatery and Pour House (King of Prussia). Phillips and the student went to multiple Wawa convenience stores in the area including Malvern, Paoli, King of Prussia, Audubon and Norristown. Additionally, Phillips took her on shopping trips to the King of Prussia Mall and ice skating in Dilworth Park outside of City Hall in Philadelphia, and to the IFly Indoor Skydiving Center and to Valley Forge Casino. Phillips gave the student numerous items, including gift cards.

My guess is there would be security cameras, date and time stamped credit card processing receipts, etc. from most of these locations. According to the lawsuit, “many of Phillips contacts with Plaintiff are documented on Conestoga’s video monitoring system, including those cameras used to observe school entrances and exits and around the bus drop-off/pickup location.” The lawsuit claims that the school district “failed to review the camera footage and failed to intervene in the outwardly inappropriate and illegal behavior of Phillips” which therefore constitutes a “systematic violation of school district policies”.

To celebrate her birthday, Phillips and the student ‘double-dated’ with a Conestoga teacher and her husband at Paladar Latin Kitchen and Rum Bar in King of Prussia. According to the lawsuit, “numerous district officials and teachers were aware of Phillips’ inappropriate relationship with the girl but failed to take steps to investigate or halt the conduct”. Further, the lawsuit alleges that Phillips’ office was decorated with homemade signs that included the girl’s initials, her first name and the word “love”.

The lawsuit alleges that Phillips continually wrote ‘hall passes’ for the student to miss class when school district policy only permits a teacher (not an aide) to write these passes. It is alleged that “none of the teachers who received these ‘hall passes’ filled out by Phillips took any action to investigate, manage, question or stop said absences or tardiness”. Between January and mid-April of this year, the student missed over 20 English classes yet the teacher (allegedly) never discussed the absences with the parents.

Ross Feller Casey is also representing the parent of the 17-year old male CHS student who was sexually abused by another Conestoga staff member, 26-year-old teacher’s aide Christine Towers. Towers was convicted earlier this year and is currently serving time for the crime. The law firm is investigating a separate federal lawsuit against TE School District in that case. In both the Towers case and the Phillips case, the parents of the two abused students are calling for the resignation of the Conestoga principal.

In the Ross Feller Casey press release, attorney Matt Casey stated, “The heartbroken parents I represent, and their children, are demanding accountability on the part of the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District, something that has yet to be achieved despite repeated, shocking instances of sexual abuse at Conestoga High School. The already-known facts lay bare a school district custom of deliberately turning a blind eye to criminal acts in its midst.” To support this claim, the lawsuit includes the middle school sexting scandal, the football hazing incident and the teacher’s aide who sexually abused the male student case prior to this latest criminal investigation – all occurring in the last couple of years.

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The school board meeting is tomorrow, Monday, June 12, 7:30 PM at Conestoga High School and includes the adoption of the 2017-18 final budget. The meeting agenda continues to list the teachers’ contract (TEEA), the non-instructional contract (TENIG) and Act 93 Agreement (administrators) as ‘TBD’ in the proposed final budget. The contracts constitute 70% of the District budget yet the budget includes no contingencies. However, it is noted that on page 293 of the agenda, we see that the school board will take a vote on giving administrators a 1.7% increase to their 2016-17 base salary plus a one-time bonus of 1% to be paid in June 2018.

Since the last regular meeting of the school board, there have been two lawsuits filed against the District … the agenda makes no mention of either.

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TE School District Served With Another Lawsuit

Lawsuits against TE School District and Conestoga High School administrators are climbing at an alarming rate.

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!

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It’s happened again – Student sexually assaulted by Aide at Conestoga High School

Is it me or does there seem to be an upswing in teachers/aides crossing the line with their students?

In the Philadelphia Inquirer last month we read, “Ex-Aide of Conestoga High School gets jail time for sex with student”. The public learned that Christine Towers, age 26, a former teacher’s aide and coach at Conestoga High School was sentenced to 11 to 23 months in jail for having a sexual relationship with a 16-yr. old T/E student who she tutored. Towers had a month-long affair with the learning disabled student in 2016.

A paraeducator and middle school and high school coach, Towers was an employee of T/E School District from August 2014 until April 2016, when she was arrested.

Our community was greeted a few days ago with the headline, “Conestoga High School staffer sexually assaulted student”. This time around it is a male aide at the high school who is arrested for having sex with one of his students.

Arthur Phillips, age 67, a male instructional aide in the television production studio of Conestoga High School was charged with having sex with a female student from January to April of this year. According to the victim, they had sex on more than 10 occasions and that Phillips would also grope and sexually assault her. Hundreds of text messages of sexual nature were found on both of their cell phones, including a picture that Phillips texted the victim of his genitals.

The victim alleges that the incidents happened in Phillips’ office at Conestoga High School and in his car. Another disturbing element in this case, is that Phillips has been with T/E School District since 2006 – eleven years! Knowing that many students pass through the television production studio of the high school, it has to make you wonder was this young girl Phillips’ only victim?

Remember these latest scandals are on the heels of the Valley Forge Middle School sexting scandal where four male T/E students sent sexually explicit videos and images of a fellow female student. And then there was the story that made the national news of the Conestoga High School football players accused of hazing a younger player by sodomizing him with a broomstick.

As is the District’s policy, Superintendent Dr. Richard Gusick and Conestoga High School Principal Dr. Amy Meisinger sent the obligatory letter of notification to T/E families after the recent arrest of Arthur Phillips. Sadly, the regularity of these incidents has created an almost ‘boilerplate’ explanation from the school administration … just another educator having sex with a student.

Where is the outrage? Where is the demand for accountability? Monday night, April 24 is the regular meeting of the T/E School District, 7:30 PM at Conestoga High School – can we expect answers?

School Board, please don’t sweep this latest sexual assault under the carpet and turn a blind eye. Top-ranked Tredyffrin Easttown School District must be more than just high SAT scores and a good football team.

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