PITTSBURGH — The Seneca Valley School District did not discriminate against a male student falsely accused of sexual assault, and had no jurisdiction to punish the four girls who made the claims, according to a federal court filing last week.
The filing was part of a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the school district and several other county residents and entities by a Zelienople family in October. The lawsuit was filed by Michael Flood Jr., a district teacher, and his wife, Alecia Flood, in the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh claiming their minor son, identified as T.F. in the suit, was tormented and suffered physical and psychological trauma as a result of the false allegations.
On Thursday, Seneca Valley’s attorney, Matthew Hoffman of Tucker Arensberg P.C., filed the motion — marking the first time a defendant in the lawsuit has filed a motion to dismiss.
Hoffman wrote that the suit claims the Floods’ son’s 14th Amendment right to equal protection was violated, as it alleges Seneca Valley failed to discipline the female students or “mark” their academic records for making false claims.
However, the motion contends the suit fails to demonstrate that anyone received special treatment during proceedings based on their gender.
“The complaint contains no allegations that female students were treated by Seneca Valley differently than male students or that other similarly situated students were treated differently by Seneca Valley than T.F. because of his gender,” the motion reads.
The motion acknowledges the assault claims were reported to ChildLine, and that the district is required by law to do so. However, “there is no factual allegation to establish that any inaction of Seneca Valley was the ‘moving force,’” behind any disciplinary action for the boy.
Further, the instances of harassment did not occur on school property, meaning district officials had no supervisory authority or ability to discipline the girls, the complaint states.
“The investigation of those allegations and the resultant initiation of juvenile proceedings were done by other entities, not Seneca Valley,” the motion states.
The motion also addresses a claim in the suit that Seneca Valley was “deliberately indifferent” to the harassment claims based on T.F.’s gender, leading to an alleged Title IX violation. Title IX ensures that a person cannot be discriminated upon in an educational setting based on their gender.
Hoffman’s motion says the suit contains no evidence that the lack of discipline for the female students, “amounted to indifference based solely upon T.F.’s gender.” It adds no evidence shows that the boy was denied access to educational programming after the charges were withdrawn in September.
The motion goes on to state that the suit does not show any of the girls’ actions against the Floods’ son were based on his gender. He cites a quote from the suit in which one of the girls said, “I just don’t like to hear (T.F.) talk. I don’t like to look at him. I just don’t like him.”
This, Hoffman wrote, is harassment based on dislike, not gender, thus negating the Title IX claim.
Hoffman wrote that the essence of the original suit is that the boy was falsely accused of sexual assault, and while the suit may contain evidence of wrongdoing elsewhere, it does not support claims against the school district.
The Floods allege their son was arrested, wrongfully prosecuted, placed on probation, incarcerated, harassed and defamed in a case of gender-based discrimination against males falsely accused of sexual assault that began in the summer of 2017.
Also listed as defendants in the suit are the boy’s female supervisor at a swimming pool where he worked as a lifeguard, her parents, four minor district students and their parents, an assistant principal, guidance counselors, the school district, the Butler County District Attorney’s Office and the county as defendants.
They seek a jury trial and unspecified damages.
The suit alleges the supervisor and three female students falsely accused the boy of sexual assault at the pool. A guidance counselor was alerted to the allegations and reported the boy to ChildLine, a state program for reporting child abuse. The assault also was reported during an interview with the Butler County Alliance for Children.
The Floods’ son was charged with indecent assault and two counts of harassment. He denied the allegations, but his parents accepted a consent decree that placed him on juvenile probation for six months.
In March 2018, following an interaction on Snapchat, one of the girls reported to a guidance counselor that the boy entered her home uninvited and sexually assaulted her. He was charged with indecent assault, forcible compulsion, criminal trespass and simple assault. Jackson Township police and a Butler County Juvenile Probation officer removed the boy from class and took him to the Keystone Education Center juvenile detention facility, where he was held for nine days and eight nights.
After several months, the Floods obtained Snapchat messages from another student who was at the residence where the alleged assault was to have occurred. Those messages indicated the girl lied about the allegations against their son, according to the Floods’ suit. Two of the girls later admitted to making up the claims.