A wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a Yough graduate, claiming the West Newton teen’s suicide came after sexual abuse by a district teacher, has been moved from Westmoreland County to federal court.
In the complaint against the school district, filed in August, Amy Tamasy and John Bryan allege their son, Jordan Bryan, committed suicide on Nov. 27 at age 19 because of “psychological/psychiatric damage” caused by abuse at the hands of his eighth-grade reading teacher.
According to the suit, the female teacher had an ongoing sexual relationship with the student beginning when he was 14 and had sexual contact with him more than 100 times before the conduct was reported to authorities in July 2017.
The Tribune-Review is not naming the teacher because no criminal charges have been filed in the case.
Jordan Bryan was a 2016 graduate of Yough, where he was a standout football player, and had begun studies at Westmoreland County Community College, according to his obituary.
His parents allege that district officials “acted with deliberate indifference” to allegations that the teacher was “sleeping with students” and that officials disciplined students who made such allegations but took no action against the teacher.
“At no time prior to Jordan Bryan’s suicide did school district officials investigate the allegations…,” the suit states.
Pittsburgh attorney Jaime Doherty, who represents Yough in the case, said the teacher in question has not been employed at the district since the start of the 2017-18 school year. Doherty declined to comment further on the case.
Yough Superintendent Janet Sardon said in a Sept. 21, 2017, statement that the district had been advised by the state’s child abuse hotline of “possible misconduct” and that an unidentified teacher was immediately suspended pending an investigation. The teacher submitted a letter of resignation, which the school board accepted Sept. 13, 2017.
Harrisburg-based Ben Andreozzi, who represents the parents, said in referring to Jordan Bryan: “The most important witness passed away before a criminal case would have been able to get off the ground.
“We have information to suggest that there may have been inappropriate contact with other students, and we’re encouraging anyone with information to come forward and report it to the authorities.”
Doherty and her colleague, Lisa Goodman, filed notice on Monday of the suit’s transfer to U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh. Yough’s attorneys contend that the federal court holds jurisdiction over the case since the parents allege that the district violated Jordan Bryan’s rights under federal Title IX Education Amendments.
The suit states that the alleged abuse “was severe and pervasive, created a sexually hostile educational environment, and unreasonably interfered with Jordan Bryan’s educational opportunities.”
The parents request a jury trial and seek an unspecified amount in damages.
“We’re hopeful that, by bringing this claim, we’ll be able to bring them some sense of closure,” Andreozzi said. “We have to try to determine how this (abuse) was allowed to happen, and who knew what when.”
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter @jhimler_news.