Lawsuit Filed Against Southern Columbia Area School District

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A lawsuit was filed Wednesday against Southern Columbia Area School District and its high school principal.

A former student claims after two athletes sexually assaulted her and did time in a juvenile boot camp, the school did little to help her avoid harassment but went out of its way to make sure the athletes could still play sports.

The lawsuit paints Southern Columbia Area High as a win-at-all-costs institution, and according to the suit, the victim of a sex crime saw her cheerleading coach testify  for a football player and against the girl he sexually assaulted.

That cheerleading coach was the head football coach's wife.

The lawsuit claims Southern Columbia Area's high school football 2010 playoff team included a player who spent part of the summer before in a juvenile boot camp.

The player was just 16, doing time for sexually assaulting a female classmate while another Southern Columbia Area athlete held down the girl.

Wednesday that classmate took Southern Columbia Area school system and high school principal James Becker to court, claiming the school, "has a disciplinary system designed to protect eligibility for male athletes regardless of their criminal behavior."

"It was just a year and a half of hell for her," said Ben Andreozzi, attorney for the victim.

By phone he cited several examples of what he calls a hostile educational environment for the girl after she pressed charges against the football player who, according to the suit, was later convicted of a felony sex crime.

The lawsuit also said when the girl "did not wish to be in the same honors class as the perpetrators, her alternative was to remove herself from the honors class and schedule herself in the general class."

The suit adds that the victim delivered a "no contact order" to the high school to separate her from her attackers, but according to the victim, "the school district fail(ed) to protect from harassing confrontations with other students(including) threats from friends of the perpetrators, instructing her she better not do anything that could inhibit the perpetrators ability to participate in athletics."

Also in the suit there are claims the school allowed the victim's attackers, at times, to sit at the same lunch table, take tests in the same room and that several school staffers testified on behalf of the athletes while she attended school.

"It's just not fair and something needs to be done to make sure an end comes to this type of practice," Andreozzi added.

As an example, Andreozzi noted how the school football trainer went to court to ask the juvenile court judge to remove the player's ankle bracelet so the player who had been convicted of the sex assault could avoid injury on the field.

Newswatch 16 left messages with Southern Columbia Area's superintendent, high school principal and football coach but calls were not returned.