Law­suit against school’s PTO, prin­ci­pal dis­missed

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Fran Maye fmaye@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @ken­nettpa­per on Twit­ter

EAST MARL­BOR­OUGH >> A civil law­suit filed by a par­ent at Hillendale El­e­men­tary School and its prin­ci­pal al­leg­ing im­pro­pri­eties with a re­cent Par­ent-Teacher Or­ga­ni­za­tion (PTO) elec­tion has been dis­missed.

Com­mon Pleas Court Judge Mark Tun­nell tossed the law­suit as filed by Kath­leen Car­mody of Chadds Ford. Car­mody used her pro­fes­sional name – Kath­leen To­bia – in the law­suit. Tun­nell gave To­bia 20 days – un­til Dec. 13 – to file an amended com­plaint. If she files an amended com­plaint, Tun­nell said it must be in the form of a de­riv­a­tive suit as a mem­ber of the Hillendale PTO, pur­suant to Penn­syl­va­nia Rules of Civil Pro­ce­dure.

In the law­suit, To­bia al­leged she was booted from her po­si­tion as co-vice pres­i­dent of Hillendale PTO by a con­spir­acy that re­port­edly orig­i­nated with Steve Dissinger, Hillendale Ele­men-

tary prin­ci­pal, and Jen­nifer Scat­tolino, Hillendale PTO co-pres­i­dent. To­bia also al­leged in the suit that Dissinger ac­cepted gifts like sports tick­ets from the PTO, and that Dissinger ig­nored bul­ly­ing in­ci­dents at the school and threat­ened par­ents.

To­bia de­mands a new elec­tion for the Hillendale PTO board in her com­plaint. She could not be reached for com­ment.

“It seems ap­par­ent that her at­tempt to bully her way back onto the Hillendale El­e­men­tary School PTO Board by fol­low­ing through on her threat to file the non­sense she filed was called out for what it was – sour grapes,” said Al Ia­cocca, at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing the PTO and Scat­tolino. “I don’t know if she will con­tinue on or if she will let it die a nat­u­ral death. Hope­fully, there will be no fur­ther ac­tion taken on her part.”

In his rul­ing, Tun­nell said To­bia re­quested re­lief that the courts have no au­thor­ity to pro­vide.

Tun­nell wrote: “For ex­am­ple, in her claim for re­lief 6, plain­tiff re­quests that we report or or­der Hillendale PTO to essen­tially report ob­ject­ing de­fen­dant to the Penn­syl­va­nia Pro­fes­sional Stan­dards and Prac­tices Com­mis­sion for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion and dis­po­si­tion. The de­fen­dant is prin­ci­pal of Hillendale El­e­men­tary School and plain­tiff ref­er­ences that po­si­tion promi­nently in the com­plaint. This raises the is­sue of gov­ern­men­tal im­mu­nity.”

Shan­non Al­bert, co-pres­i­dent of the Hillendale PTO, said a de­ci­sion in fa­vor of To­bia could have dev­as­tat­ing im­pli­ca­tions for the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Those of us who volunteer reg­u­larly know it is dif­fi­cult to con­vince peo­ple to use their free time to volunteer,” she said. “That we can be ac­cused of wrong­do­ing is scary.”

When the suit was filed, John Sanville, su­per­in­ten­dent of the UnionvilleChadds Ford School District, said the al­le­ga­tions against Dissinger and the PTO were “spe­cious and with­out merit.”

“The good name of an ex­em­plary prin­ci­pal is at stake, along with the PTO vol­un­teers and a PTO pres­i­dent,” he said. “Steve Dissinger is a man of ut­most in­tegrity and he is re­spected by his peers, beloved by a com­mu­nity he serves. His record of ex­cel­lence, years of ded­i­ca­tion and ser­vice to this com­mu­nity stand as a tes­ta­ment to the qual­ity of his char­ac­ter.”

Ia­cocca said his clients are con­tem­plat­ing pur­su­ing a cause of ac­tion against To­bia un­der the state Dragonetti Act. The Dragonetti Act is a mea­sure to com­pen­sate plain­tiffs for wrong­ful use of civil pro­ceed­ings. Typ­i­cally, it in­volves plain­tiffs act­ing in a grossly neg­li­gent man­ner or with­out prob­a­ble cause.

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