In a critical decision, a federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit brought by Ross Feller Casey on behalf of a former student at a Chester County high school who was sexually assaulted by a staff member can proceed to trial.
The judge, Jan Dubois of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, rejected a defense request to toss the case, which involves the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District and Conestoga High School.
Among other things, the lawsuit alleges that the district failed to prevent an instructional aide at Conestoga from engaging in a classic pattern of sexual grooming and assault against a student starting when she was only 15 years old.
The district is liable for the assaults, the suit alleges, because it inadequately trained its staff in spotting precursor conduct before the aide’s arrest. The suit also claims that the district should have been on notice because of previous instances of misconduct committed by other former staff. Learn more about the case
In the ruling, the judge noted that a “reasonable jury could find that, in light of the previous incidents of sexual harassment at (Conestoga High School) that occurred under the same policies, the preexisting policies and training were inadequate such that other incidents were likely to occur.” Additionally, Dubois said a jury hearing the case could conclude that the district “acted with deliberate indifference in failing to train its employees.”
Matt Casey, a founding partner of Ross Feller Casey who is litigating the case, called the ruling significant “both for victims of sexual abuse generally and in particular for students in public school districts and the administrators paid by taxpayers to protect them.”
“We now look forward to having a jury hear the case and deliver its verdict,” Casey told The Legal Intelligencer.
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