It has been well-reported that two teachers at Plum High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania were carrying on sexual relationship with their students. What’s worse, Plum School District officials are accused of covering up the sexual relationships. A Plum board member recently resigned over the District’s response to the allegations, claiming he reported high-school English teacher Joseph Ruggieri for inappropriate behavior with students years ago. Ruggieri has since been charged with multiple crimes for having sex with a Plum student.
The Plum teachers accused of having sex with their students have not denied the allegations. Their defense: the girls were 18, so the relationships were not illegal. Under Pennsylvania law, however, it is illegal for a teacher to engage in a sexual relationship with a student, regardless of the student’s age. In addition, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office has filed papers outlining how one teacher, Jason Cooper, allegedly “groomed” his victim for sex well before she turned 18.
Cooper’s alleged grooming is significant for another reason. Under Pennsylvania law, a victim of “childhood” sexual abuse has until their thirtieth birthday to file a civil claim arising from that abuse. If the Plum victims were 18 when their abuse began, their claims will expire two years from the initial abuse. If, however, the girls were subject to inappropriate behavior before their 18th birthdays, they may have until they turn thirty to sue their abusers, and the District. As I’ve previously written, Cooper and Ruggieri’s victims may have strong Title IX claims against the School District for “deliberate indifference” to a sexually hostile educational environment. With each new allegation of indifference on the part of the District, their cases get stronger.
Andreozzi + Foote has successfully represented several victims in Title IX lawsuits against public schools. Our firm represents victims of sexual, violent, and financial crimes in civil lawsuits. Our firm is best known for its work on behalf of sexual abuse victims, including representing 11 of Jerry Sandusky’s victims. We are also representing the families of murdered love ones in several cases. If you believe you or a loved one has been a victim of a crime and are interested in exploring a potential civil lawsuit, please contact me immediately at [email protected].