Judge: Area teacher can’t sue superintendent
WILLIAMSPORT — A State College Area School District teacher whose suspension for allegedly slapping a third-grader was vacated has lost her bid to obtain damages from the superintendent who disciplined her.
U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann Wednesday ruled Superintendent Robert J. O’Donnell in his official position has immunity from such suits.
The judge also dismissed the due process claim of Lisa M. Bevan, noting she took advantage of the grievance procedure that resulted in an arbitrator ruling in her favor.
According to court documents, students were having trouble focusing on the lesson and at the end of class were dismissed to a guest teacher who lined them in the hallway.
Bevan admitted going into the hall and admonishing all the students for their behavior but denied striking any of them.
She told a school official, according to court documents, “I could have hit her because I wave my hands when I talk.”
The day after the alleged incident Bevan was suspended after being advised a mother had made a complaint about her daughter being slapped.
State College police and Centre County Children and Youth conducted investigations during the 28 days Bevan was suspended and neither found the allegations rose to criminal conduct.
However, O’Donnell on May 30, 2017, suspended Bevan five days without pay; three for the alleged slap and two for failing to cooperate with the investigation that he termed was evidence of “immorality.”
Bevan claimed the district wanted her to confess and pointed out she kept silent at the meeting on the advice of counsel.
An arbitrator last November sustained Bevan’s grievance finding the evidence “is woefully inadequate” to support the district’s contention a slapping or hitting occurred.
Bevan had her personnel record cleared of the two suspensions and she received the pay and benefits lost in the five-day one.
Brann, citing his immunity ruling, also dismissed a loss of consortium claim brought by Bevan’s husband, Brian.