Pattye Benson

Community Matters

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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  1. Do a RTK request for the solicitor’s invoices. I asked for and received similar information from Lower Merion where Roos is also the solicitor. The information will be redacted to protect confidential information and you may have to pay 25 cents per page.

  2. Alarm Bells should be ringing in every citizens ears.

    Solicitor Roos 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,” Roos said. He said the principal did not know about inappropriate conduct between the girl and an aide until several high school officials contacted police.

    How could the Principal not know about inappropriate conduct between the girl and Mr. Phillips until several High School officials contacted police? Isn’t the Principal the highest level official at the High School? Wouldn’t other School Officials check in with her before contacting police? Like so much over there, it doesn’t make sense. Is Roos covering up? Has it started already? Will an investigation be opened to determine who knew what when? When will this end? Will teachers and Administrators get raises and bonuses while tax payers and parents continue to suffer while the TE culture remains the same?

    And Solicitor Roos was rehired at a higher rate? The Board condones the conspiracy of silence and uses Roos to facilitate keeping citizens in the dark, just like L.M. and Great Valley.

  3. School Board,

    Doing the same thing over and over is not getting different results.

    Any decision you would have made opposite or new to the ones made over the last couple of years could not have resulted in worse outcomes.

    Get some courage. Dig deep. Do something. Stop listening to the people around you. Get some new people around you.

  4. Want to bet that the new Act 93 contract being voted on next week will include hefty salary increases in the TESD school budget for the same administration on whose watch we now have rape charges and two (and possibly three) major lawsuits within weeks?

  5. Many residents are sick and tired of the self-serving TESD administration and school board, but are afraid to say anything for fear of reprisals by these bullies against their kids who are in District schools. I’m one of them. Aren’t these the same people who paid for private investigators to follow a student for a proof-of-residency investigation (and still managed to lose the case)?

  6. The parents of the 15-year old girl in the Arthur Phillips sexual assault case hired Ross Feller Casey for their lawsuit. The Philadelphia law firm is among the preeminent personal injury law firms in Pennsylvania and the nation.

    According to their website, “Ross Feller Casey has won record-setting recoveries on behalf of its catastrophically injured clients, including those who were victims of predatory sexual abuse. The firm successfully represented seven men who were victimized by former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky — more clients than any other single law firm – in litigation against the university.”

    Is the school district solicitor Roos really up to the task of defending TESD, his client? Patty, how’s the school board going to calculate the budget expense of legal fees?

      1. The taxpayers pay the legal fees of District solicitor Ken Roos and others from Wisler Pearlstine. It is my understanding that the insurance coverage for the district includes a hefty deductible and a maximum payout. Not certain what the limit is ($1M, $2M, ???) — a significant settlement in a Federal lawsuit could presumably exceed the limitations of the District’s insurance coverage.

  7. Yes, we will be tasked with the financial burden of paying to defend against this suit too. We’ve already paid for lawyers for coaches named in the hazing civil suit last fall, including the one now suing the Principal and Supt. for losing his job. And I’m sure we’re paying lawyers to defend the Principal and Supt. in the lawsuit filed against them by the coach who lost his job. What about the teachers who knew about this relationship? Will the taxpayer pay their legal fees too? This is unbelievable.

    1. Thanks, I saw this information on the evening news but I don’t see the statement on the T/E website. Can we assume that the school district will add the statement to the site?

  8. Release all financial information on legal fees for employees over the last 2 years.

    Cut teacher and Administrator pay. Do NOT give bonuses.

    These people should be fired immediately.

  9. What is it going to take in order to get that incompetent woman out the most important role at Conestoga – Principal! How many lives are going to continue to be so negatively impacted by this administration! Wonderful teachers pushed out because they don’t have ‘it’. You know ‘it’ the quantitative way to evaluate performance; young girls dating and sleeping with OLD married men; hazing and bullying of young gay students; and wrongful firing of some of the staff for the hazing and then keeping the football coach on as a security guard. What? What an absolute shit storm – we need to remove this cloud from Conestoga and get rid of Amy and the superintendent! Dr or not – you don’t have the ability to lead by example or engage at a basic human level.

  10. Does the District have insurance to cover any legal costs incurred by the District and any of its employees/ Is there a cap on these expenses or any deductible? If not, should not the District carry a “contingency” line item in its budget to cover such past/future liabilities?

    1. Someone else brought up District insurance — it is my understanding that there is a hefty deductible and a cap on the payout. My guess is that a significant settlement in a Federal lawsuit against the District could exceed the limitations of the insurance policy.

  11. You are assuming that the Principal was not one of the several High School Officials. Generally speaking High School official does not usually mean teacher or aide.

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