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Parents urge Seneca Valley to prevent bullying in wake of ‘Mean Girls’ lawsuit

Tony LaRussa
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The Seneca Valley High School student section waits for a football game against Hempfield Area to start on Friday, Oct. 5 at NexTier Stadium in Harmony.

Several parents in the Seneca Valley School District attended Monday night’s school board meeting to urge officials to take greater measures to ensure that students aren’t being bullied.

The meeting was the first public gathering of the board since a federal lawsuit was filed earlier this month by the parents of a former high school student who claim their teenage son was terrorized by false accusations made by five girls at the school.

Portions of Monday’s meeting were broadcast by Tribune-Review news partners WPXI-TV .

“Lead by example. Show now that Seneca Valley will change the future,” one parent told the board. “And make it better for all children.”

Another parent said the bullying in the district is widespread.

“Many children students are hurting and need help,” she said. “Why won’t you change it? Why?”

Former student Carley Weigel said she was bullied in school and hopes to see measures taken to prevent it.

“I want it to get better,” she said. “They are trying, maybe, but not as much as they should be.”

School board President James Nickel said district officials “are confident the facts will show that the Seneca Valley School District has followed all applicable laws, and the inclusion of the district in the lawsuit is without merit.”

In response to comments from parents that disciplinary action should be taken against students for incidents that occur outside of the school, Nickel said the distinct is “without legal authority to discipline students for such conduct.”

He said the only instances in which that can occur is when the actions “represent threats to safety in our schools or substantially disrupt the school environment.”

Nickel told WPXI that the district will work toward a common goal of ending bullying but provided no details about what steps would be taken.

Weigel told the TV station that she was “frustrated” by the lack of response from district officials.

The lawsuit was filed Oct. 2 by Michael J. and Alecia Flood of Zelienople, Butler County, who are the parents of a teenage boy identified in court documents as T.F.

The Floods seek unspecified civil damages against the girls’ parents, the school district and Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger’s office.

The lawsuit, which includes the term “mean girls,” alleges they “conspired in person and via electronic communication devices to falsely accuse T.F. of sexual assault on two occasions.”

The “mean girls” comment is a reference to the popular 2004 cult movie “Mean Girls.”

Beyond saying the district’s inclusion in the lawsuit is without merit, school officials have not commented on any of the allegations made in the 26-page lawsuit, which alleges T.F. “was forced to endure multiple court appearances, detention in a juvenile facility, detention at home, the loss of his liberty and other damages until several of the girls reluctantly admitted that their accusations were false” this summer.

The lawsuit contends the teen was bullied on multiple occasions by classmates.

In one example, students last year placed masking tape with the word “PREDATOR” written on it on his back without his knowledge during choir practice, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges the boy also was damaged from “gender bias” by school officials and Goldinger’s office, which even after learning the girls’ accusations were false “did not take any action against the females involved,” according to attorney Craig Fishman of Pittsburgh, who represents the Floods.

The teen boy is being homeschooled, Fishman said.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368 or [email protected] or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.

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