Lawsuit against school’s PTO, principal dismissed
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.