Pattye Benson

Community Matters

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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  1. Sexual assault thrived in an environment where it was tolerated and accepted. My heart goes out to this young woman and her family; no amount of settlement money is ever going to make this situation right. So very sad.

  2. Lawsuit, Page 27 Of 36

    #167. The conduct of Defendants Tredyffrin/Easttown and Principal Meisinger was wanton and outrageous and demonstrates a reckless indifference to the rights of others, including Plaintiff.

  3. Lawsuit, Page 28 of 36

    171. While any citizen may report suspected child abuse in PA, certain classes of individuals are mandated to report suspected child abuse. Mandated reporters are required by law to report suspected child abuse.

    172. PA Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) was amended in 2014, including substantial changes to the list of people who are mandated reporters. Effective Dec. 31, 2014, any school employee, including teachers and aides, are mandated reporters.

  4. I read the lawsuit. It’s says this is a civil trial. A jury trial was demanded. Who demanded a jury trial? The plaintiff? Why? The defendants? Why?

    Why didn’t the District/defendants settle with the plaintiff? Did the District/ Defendants have a choice? Will insurance pay if the Plaintiff wins?

    1. It is the plaintiff and/or her parents that want the jury trial. It is unclear why unless it’s to publicize the sexual assault issue, make a statement for change or maybe it’s about money. The answer to the question would need to come from the plaintiff or her attorney. It certainly would make sense that the school district would have tried to reach a settlement before it goes to trial — maybe they are still trying. As a jury trial, the public will more likely know the outcome — whereas a settlement, probably not.

  5. This is the same school district that called the cops on a 6-year old with Down’s Syndrome. Adults are making interesting choices about what gets escalated over there.

    This young woman’s life is forever altered. I agree with Very Sad.

  6. Absolutely disgusting, but no surprise that so many apparently knew and yet nothing was done. This is not the first time in TESD for a sex crime (Case 2:17-cv-01589-AB Filed 04/07/17)—another one swept under the rug.

    Just an example of one of the TESD Ten Commandments: If problems become visible and threatening, protect ourselves first and foremost at any cost, followed by a “BIG C” rally in the CHS gym.

  7. Mango,

    What is case “ This is not the first time in TESD for a sex crime (Case 2:17-cv-01589-AB Filed 04/07/17)—another one swept under the rug.?”

    I can’t find it. Thanks

    1. Lawsuit, page 25 of 36

      # 155. The various actions perpetrated in the School District during the past three years as well as the sexual assaults endured by Plaintiff, are part of a culture of indifference in the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District. This culture of indifference permits sexual abuse and other forms of sexual harassment by failing to promptly investigate signs and red flags, and failing to enforce preventative policies against sexual abuse and sexual harassment in violation of Title IX and other constitutional rights.

  8. Anyone with a student at TE should be upset and concerned about this — after all, the TE school personnel listed in the suite, continue to work at TE.

    Protect the students has been replaced with, Protect My Pension.
    (Clearly, not applying to all hard working TE personnel).

    Parents and Tax Payers need to Wake Up—-look at the trend: kids who do not live in TE, attend TE schools, alleged football incident, they call the police on a 6yr old Down Syndrome student, and now, look at TE’s Goals for 2020-2021–taken from BLM web site…to fundamentally transform TE. The radical school board members are more concerned with left wing policies than protecting ALL our students.
    The curriculum, funding for the students who excel and take the tests, whose TE personnel’s bonuses are based upon, have been watered down. With funding being channeled to new areas, including programs that instruct our teachers that they are systemically racists.

    As Marvin Gaye sang, “What’s Going On?”

    1. The goals for 2020 to 2021 are a red herring, written to create a firestorm so the attention is taken off of holding Administrators and teachers accountable for their egregious behavior. They mean nothing.

      The goal was to appease the very left wing Board, while stirring up strong emotions and get everyone in a tizzy so real issues like lawsuits aren’t addressed.

      Citizen taxpayers tried to hold the Supt. accountable for last years goals at an on line meeting in the Spring to justify his salary increase. He rolled his eyes at us. Policies, goals, rules regulations aren’t enforced unless the policy benefits the Administration and teachers. Administrators write yearly goals for show, forget about them, do what they want to do and aren’t held accountable. Goals mean nothing.

  9. Assuming that the school board did not negotiate settlement or one to the satisfaction of the plaintiffs, a jury trial could be more sympathetic to the plight of the girl, and her presumed emotional and psychological problems that resulted from the incidents.

  10. Everyone keeps blaming the school and the administrators. The only one you should be blaming is the creep that did this. To say that Amy M. or any other staff member knew about this abuse is complete slander. It’s like saying the victim’s parents should have known.
    These creeps are masters of deception. They appear to be a great guy or lady and behind the scenes they groom these young boys and girls into thinking that it’s okay to let this happen. I had a soccer coach that loved to put his hands on me and I was to embarrassed to say anything. This guy was everyone’s best friend and a creep to the core for a 12 year old girl.
    The district does everything they can to screen for these people but unfortunately they don’t employee any psychics or mind readers.

  11. Really curious after reading all the information regarding the lawsuit, there wasn’t much of a mention about school security guards.

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