Loyalsock Township School District sued over 2018 sexual assault case in federal court

Loyalsock Township School District has been sued in federal court, accused of failing to protect students from sexual abuse by a former middle school basketball coach who was sentenced to prison.

The civil suit in U.S. Middle District Court lists up to 10 individuals, identified only as “John and Jane Does,” who may have exposed the minor to undue risk and harm by putting her in a situation where she could and was sexually assaulted, according to the suit filed by Brian D. Kent, the plaintiff’s attorney.

These unnamed individuals include, but are not limited to, administrators, school board members, teachers, counselors, former employers, agents and employees of the district.

Kelli Vassallo, the former middle school basketball coach, is not a party in the lawsuit, having been convicted after Vassallo pleaded guilty to felony criminal charges of institutional sexual assault and corruption of a minor. Vassallo admitted to having indecent contact with a 13-year-old girl in June 2013.

In December 2018, Vassallo was sentenced in Court of Common Pleas to a year to two years followed by 10 years probation. She must register as a sex offender with the state police.

The suit contends the district failed to prevented Vassallo from inappropriately interacting with female students and, in particular, Jane Doe. Coaches, teachers, and school administrators all knew that Vassallo was in constant contact with the girl. The eight counts filed by the plaintiff include: vicarious liability, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent failure to rescue, failure to warn, negligence and a count related to Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, which is failing to take steps to “rescue” the girl and not prevention others from the threat posed by Vassallo.

The plaintiff is asking for Judge Matthew W. Brann to issue a judgment of more than $50,000.00, and in excess of the prevailing arbitration limits, in compensatory damages and punitive damages, exclusive of pre-judgment interest post-judgment interests and costs.

The lawsuit attempts to redress a hostile educational environment where the girl was subjected to sexual harassment, Kent said.

The Sun-Gazette spoke Monday with a spokesperson who stated district Superintendent Gerald McLaughlin was in meetings throughout the day and unable to respond to a request for comment.


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