Lancaster school district sued for allegedly violating student's civil rights

By Jim Boyle | May 16, 2014

A graduate of the Manheim School District in Lancaster County has filed a federal civil suit

against the school district and members of the administration for allegedly forcing him to take a breathalyzer test during an after-prom party in 2012.

According to the complaint, Andrew Dissinger was denied proper due process to appeal his subsequent suspension when school representatives failed to provide enough advance notice of meetings and full explanations of his right.

The suit says that on May 19, 2012, Dissinger arrived at the Manheim Township High School for a post senior prom party hosted by the school. Shortly after entering the party, Dissinger began to argue with his girlfriend, prompting concerned parents and chaperones to notify a Manheim Township police officer who was monitoring the event.

The officer, Roger Blantz, and assistant principal Shannon Mayfield brought Dissinger into a classroom, where they asked if he had been drinking. The reason for their suspicions, according to the court documents, is because Dissinger's face had turned red and that he was visibly upset.

Dissinger denied drinking, but Mayfield wanted to perform a breathalyzer test to be sure. The suit says that Dissinger was never informed that he could refuse the test, leave the room whenever he wanted or had no obligation to speak to Mayfield or Blantz. The breathalyzer test came back positive for alcohol consumption, and Dissinger's father, Det. Christopher Dissinger, was called to the school.

The following Monday, Timothy Williams, assistant to the superintendent for secondary curriculum, informed Dissinger that his son would be suspended for the rest of the school year, including extra-curricular activities and the graduation ceremony. A meeting to appeal the decision was scheduled a couple days later, but Dissinger was not informed that he could call his own witnesses.

Williams upheld the suspension and told Dissinger that any further appeals could result in expulsion for his son, which would prevent him from receiving a diploma. According to the claim, Dissinger was never told of his right to have a formal hearing before the school board or that he had a right to attend classes prior to the hearings.

Dissinger requests the court to find the school district's actions unconstitutional, order compensatory and punitive damages and expunge the incident from his record.

The plaintiff is represented by Joshua Prince of Prince Law Offices in Bechtelsville, Pa.

The federal case ID number is 5:14-cv-02741-JLS.

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