SCRANTON - The parents of a Pottsville Area High School football player have filed suit against the school district after their son was suspended for allegedly performing a nude dance with a towel in the locker room - though the school says it was simply responding to complaints of harassment.
Thomas and Donna Schenk, the parents of a 17-year-old student referred to in filings as K.S., filed suit Feb. 21 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against the Pottsville Area School District.
Their son, K.S., was suspended for 10 days from the high school for the alleged incident. K.S., a junior, honor roll student and football player, is alleged to have danced in the locker room "either with or without a towel in close proximity" to a 25-year-old male who is associated with the football team.
In a court filing Feb. 26, the school district says the man is actually 24 years old and mentally disabled.
"The majority of the harassment incidents took place in the football team locker room. The victim was unable to appreciate the abuse and harassment occurring to him," the district says.
The incident allegedly occurred sometime during the previous football season that ended in November. According to court documents, the district became aware of the alleged nude dancing with a towel after an anonymous letter was sent to the district in February.
The parents are asking that the district to reverse the suspension, remove the suspension from any of K.S.' school records and allow him to participate once again in extracurricular activities within the district, such as playing on the basketball team.
The Schenks also seek compensatory and punitive damages as well as having attorneys' fees be covered by the district.
But the Pottsville school district has responded by claiming it has clear evidence that K.S. intimidated the man. It says K.S. would put his genitals on the man's face and "would wipe a lollipop on various private parts of his body and feed it to the victim..."
The Schenks allege that based on the district's unlawful harassment rule, the allegations against K.S. do not meet the requirements that state harassment must be an effect on the alleged victim's education environment, academic performance or learning opportunities. Since the victim was not a student in the district, K.S. could not meet the definition of harassment, they claim.
Moreover, the parents say they were never provided a copy of the report detailing the district's investigation. They contend that since district policy specifically requires such, the district is in violation of its own policy.
The Schenks were contacted by the district in February requesting an interview regarding the allegations. During the meeting, K.S. was accused of dancing in the locker room with or without a towel in close proximity to the 25-year-old male. No one alleged that K.S. made any physical contact with the alleged victim. K.S. denied and continues to deny the allegations.
The district conducted multiple interviews with players regarding conduct in the locker room. K.S. was interviewed specifically and denied any wrongdoings. K.S. was subsequently suspended from school for 10 days for violating the district's harassment policy, court filings said.