Written by attorney Jared E Everton

If Students File Claims against School Officials, they are Legally Protected from Retaliation

It is traumatic enough when a student suffers a situation, such as sexual assault, that causes them to file a claim against their school. Even more unfortunate is when their claim causes retaliation from other students or school employees. Such was the case in a 2006 sexual assault incident in Pennsylvania.

Beginning in 2005 and continuing into 2006, Brittany Toplisek, a student and varsity softball player at Canon McMillan High School in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, was victim to a series of sexual advances from volunteer softball coach, Justin Bedillion. Toplisek and Bedillion had an inappropriate relationship that led to sexual intercourse both in the school building and during or after school functions outside of the school building. Bedillion was eventually arrested for sexual offenses against Toplisek and another student at Canon McMillan.

In February 2008, Toplisek filed a lawsuit, alleging a First Amendment retaliation claim against Canon McMillan, claiming that after she filed the sexual assault complaint, school employees and students made inappropriate comments to her, and that those individuals were not disciplined for their acts of retaliation. In addition, Toplisek said that she was excluded from participating on the softball team and was refused training that was available to other players, depriving her of potential collegiate athletic scholarships. Finally, Toplisek charged that she was suspended from school for getting into a fight with another softball player while the other player was not disciplined.

Filing a complaint, such as sexual assault, is a constitutionally protected activity and retaliation against such actions can be punishable by law. If you have a child that’s a student in high school or college, and they have filed a claim against their school, they are protected from any acts of retaliation.

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