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Franklin School Board Won’t Talk About Pending Lawsuit

Tuesday, March 26, 2019 @ 12:03 AM

Posted by Chris Rossetti

Franklin School BoardFRANKLIN, Pa. (EYT) – Despite questions from community member Bradford Worthington, Spaid said the board and its individual members won’t be talking about a lawsuit filed in federal court against the School District, Superintendent Pamela Dye and Junior-Senior High School Principal Christina Cohlhepp that alleges the district created a climate in which former teacher Kyle Askins could “prey upon” a girl he was convicted of sexually abusing.

“You (Spaid) said you were surprised the lawsuit was filed,” Worthington said. “I would like each board member to say whether or not they were surprised.”

Spaid, however, said the board wouldn’t be answering that question.

“This is not a time to answer questions,” Spaid said. “You can comment during this period, but the board won’t be answering any questions.”

Spaid also said that individual board members have been advised not to answer questions concerning the ongoing lawsuit.

“Our counsel has told us not to talk about it,” Spaid said.

Spaid told exploreVenango that he anticipates the lawsuit taking quite a bit of time to work its way through the legal system, and that the district would have no comment regarding the lawsuit until its conclusion.

At last week’s work session, Spaid read a prepared statement that he gave to exploreVenango.

The prepared statement in its entirety follows:

“As was reported in the paper this week, the District and two of our administrators were named in a federal lawsuit arising out of the criminal conduct of Kyle Askins. This Is the latest consequences from Mr. Askins horrendous actions.

“The District did not have any notice that this suit was going to be filed until it was served earlier this month. Since receiving notice of the lawsuit, we have engaged counsel who will be conducting an investigation as part of our defense.

“The District takes this lawsuit very seriously, as it does any claim involving the safety of children. It is important to remember all of this was caused by Mr. Askins. His criminal conduct was abhorrent, as is borne out by the fact that he is now in state prison. Unbeknownst to anyone, he was a predator, and his actions have wrought untold harm to his victim and this community. However, his wrongdoing does not mean that the District or its administration did anything wrong. At this point, with regard to the District and its administrators, we have nothing more than allegations in a civil complaint. Those allegations are not facts. We plan on investigating the allegations and then responding appropriately in Court.

“Because this is now pending litigation, neither I nor any other member of the Board will be providing any statements or comments on the particulars of the allegations or the lawsuit. The legal process to move forward and will be presenting our position regarding the allegations in court filings through our counsel.

“I recognize that this issue is one of great importance to this community and I did not want anyone to think that we, as a Board, were not addressing it with the utmost seriousness.”

Worthington contended that the school district and not the school board was sued, and as a citizen of the district, he had the right to know what the board is thinking.

“I don’t think it is right that (your counsel) is telling you not to speak,” Worthington said. “I want to know the board members thoughts on this. I need to make a decision on who to vote for in November.”

Before the board meeting was called into executive session to discuss other matters, a couple of board members did approach Worthington and told him that they would be willing to talk to him about any other subject involving the district but the current lawsuit.

Worthington told exploreVenango that he might be looking into his own legal counsel to sue the school board over its refusal to answer any questions.

He contended that the district and the board should not be served by the same solicitor, Jennifer Gornall.

“I don’t understand why they can’t talk,” Worthington said. “They (the board members) aren’t the ones being sued. I might need to look into filing a suit of my own.”

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