TAMAQUA, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)- Two fathers from Tamaqua have filled a lawsuit against the Tamaqua Area School District regarding an incident that occurred on November 4th of 2021.
Although school officials denied claims of sexual assault between the student-athletes at the time, the lawsuit alleges both a tradition of sexual assault between members of the football team and a tradition of cover-ups by school officials.
In November, Eyewitness News asked the Tamaqua School Board if any students had been physically harmed in the “hazing” incident. They said no.
The lawsuit says the two victims were beaten and sexually assaulted by members of the football team in the football house owned by the district.
The lawsuit also alleges there were several Title IX violations and the school board and administration covered up the incident.
The students and their fathers are identified only by their initials in the lawsuit, due to the sensitive nature of the incident.
According to the lawsuit, Student 1 reported the assault to his father, Father 1, after it occurred who then reported the assault to Coach Bonner, Vice President of the Tamaqua Area School Board Nick Boyle and Tamaqua Area High School Principal Tom McCabe.
Student 1 was then interviewed later that same night by Tamaqua Borough Police officers on Tamaqua Area School District property with Assistant Superintendent of Tamaqua Area School District Dr. Steven Toth in attendance.
A week after the incident Toth called Student 1 and asked for the written statement Student 1 had previously provided police.
Both students represented in this lawsuit were assaulted on the same day, although not at the same time, the lawsuit stated.
On the day after the assault, Student 2 attempted to approached Principal McCabe to speak about the sexual assault but was told the Principal was too busy to speak to him.
Student 2 and his father, Father 2, returned to the school after hours to speak with the principal.
It is also noted in the lawsuit that Student 2 did not keep his belongings in the football house due to the knowledge that harm could come to him in the unsupervised location. On the day of the assault, Student 2 was lured to the football house after members of the team took his belongings and hid them within the building.
The students who assaulted Student 2 could be seen on security camera footage viewed by McCabe, Father 2 and Student 2 in the after-school meeting, conspiring to steal Student 2’s belongings. The students seen in the video were identified by McCabe and Student 2.
At the request of McCabe, Student 2 provided the principal with a written statement of the incident.
According to the lawsuit, Student 2 and Father 2 never heard from Tamaqua Area administrators again and Student 2 was not offered any counseling or supportive measures of any kind.
On November 5th McCabe called Father 1 to inform him that the school would conduct interviews relating to the report given by Student 1. A few hours later McCabe told Father 1 that one of the student perpetrators had confessed.
11 days after the confession Tamaqua Area School Board held a disciplinary hearing for one of the students present at the time of the sexual assault. Student 1 and his father attempted to be present at the hearing but were barred, against their right according to the lawsuit, by Superintendent of Tamaqua Area Raymond Kinder.
Two days after the hearing of the unnamed student, another hearing was held for one of the students recognized as one of Student 1’s alleged assaulters, again Kinder refused to allow the father and son to sit in on the hearing.
Student 1 told Kinder he wished to tell his side of the story to the hearing board but Kinder stated he would not be permitted to tell his side of the story, nor did they have any right to the knowledge of the outcome of the hearing.
The lawsuit claims this pattern continued for another hearing for yet another one of Student 1 assaulters.
Student 1 and his father say they were not advised of Student 1 Title IX rights during the investigation and decision-making process.
Both students named as Student 1’s assaulters remained enrolled in school, and in some instances in the same class of Student 1.
The lawsuit notes that one of the assaulters had a family member working for the school district.
The Tamaqua Area School Board held a special meeting to discuss the sexual assault of both students on November 22nd. In a statement to the press, School Board President Larry Wittig stated, “there’s no sexual connotation to any of the charges”, “there is no sexual assault,” “the sexual part of this is not true,” and “the rumors are not true.”
Both students and their fathers say they attempted to be present for the meeting but were once again barred by Superintendent of Tamaqua Area Raymond Kinder.
At one point in the night, Kinder had separated the fathers and sons and told Father 1 he believed his son to be lying. Kinder also accused Father 1 of writing the written statement provided by Student 1.
The next day Father 1 emailed Kinder, Toth, Boyle and Tamaqua Area School Board President Larry Wittig asking that Kinder recuse himself from the investigation. Kinder agreed but stated due to his position he would remain involved in other aspects of the process.
It is noted in the lawsuit that Student 1’s brother was also on the football team and as a freshman the brother had also been sexually assaulted in a manner similar of the two students represented in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that as the school worked to defend the assaulters in this case, Student 1 and his brother were increasingly bullied and teased by classmates.
Student 1, also a member of the wrestling team, was at one point pinned down by a senior of the wrestling team who told other teammates to assault Student 1 in the same manner as the original assault.
The student told his father and expressed concerns about the recent torments.
On January 27th 2022, Student 1 withdrew from Tamaqua Area High School.
The Defendants in this case, Tamaqua Area School District, Superintendent of Tamaqua Area Raymond Kinder, Assistant Superintendent of Tamaqua Area School District Dr. Steven Toth, Tamaqua Area High School Principal Tom McCabe, School Board President Larry Wittig, Vice President of the Tamaqua Area School Board Nick Boyle, and members of the Tamaqua Area School Board Melanie Dillman, Thomas Bartasavage, Bryan Miller, Mark Rother, Thomas Rottet, Daniel Schoener and Trina Schellhammer, are being accused of 14 counts of Title IX violations. Including Negligence, Equal Protection, and Retaliation Following report of Sexual Assault.
Eyewitness News has reached out to the Tamaqua Area School District and is awaiting a response.