Southern Columbia Schools Pay $130,000 to Settle Lawsuit

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CATAWISSA - The Southern Columbia Area District School System agreed to pay a $130,000 out of court settlement to a woman who was sexually assaulted by two students in 2009.

The incident happened at a home away from school property, but the family filing suit claims that after she was the victim of the sex crime, she was victimized again when Southern Columbia High School failed to stop students from bullying her, and from failing to protect her from contact with her two attackers.

One of her attackers was convicted of luring her to a home.
The other who was convicted of sexually assaulting her at that home, was a star on the school`s 2009 district championship football team.

"Football has a lot to do with it because southern is a big team," said David Hack of Catawissa, who thought the out of court settlement was high.

So did construction worker Mike Lunger who said, "When they`re paying out $130,000, they obviously don`t want to get hit with more than that."

Southern Columbia Area School`s Superintendent Paul Caputo says that of the $130,000 settlement, the district`s insurance company pays $125,000 and district taxpayers will pay $5,000, the policy's deductible.  He adds the insurance said it would not pay anything, if the district decided to continue fighting in court.

"If it went to trial, there`s no guarantee what the outcome of a trial would have been," said Caputo.

The suit may be settled, but some questions raised by the details in the suit remain.  These questions surround actions by some school officials.

The lawsuit called Southern Columbia Area High a hostile learning environment. It noting faculty members, including Principal Jim Becker, testified as character witnesses for young woman's attackers as they were sentenced for their crimes.

"Its my understanding the principal received a subpoena to appear in court," said Caputo claiming it was not Becker's choice to testify.

Superintendent Caputo isn't sure if there will be any policy changes as a result of the incident.
And he admitted taxpayers may soon face a rise in insurance costs as a result of the out of court settlement, even if the school system maintains it did nothing wrong.