Parents of four Lehighton Area School District students filed a lawsuit in Carbon County Court late last month alleging the students were sodomized while left unsupervised before Lehighton Area Middle School football practice in 2019.
The lawsuit names the district as well as two middle school football coaches, Jason Muffley and Jacen Nalesnik.
According to the complaint, three 14-year-old male students and a 15-year-old male student “suffered harm due to ongoing physical and sexual assaults, and a sexually hostile and physically violent environment at Lehighton Area Middle School,” which the parents allege Nalesnik and Muffley “failed to correct” despite having knowledge of the culture.
Students, according to the complaint, were directed to go to the middle school field house before practice to change into their practice clothes. Parents claim the students were unsupervised during this time.
“While the students were alone in the field house, members of the team hazed, bullied and physically and sexually assaulted seventh-grade team members, including the four students involved in the lawsuit,” attorney Slade McLaughlin, who is representing the parents, wrote in the complaint.
The sexual abuse, parents allege, included sodomy involving a broomstick. Several other players placed their buttocks and genitalia on the faces of the four students.
“Many of these acts were captured by eighth-grade members of the football team on cellphone video recordings, which were widely distributed to other students at the school,” McLaughlin wrote.
Parents allege one of the students alerted Nalesnik and Muffley to the “acts of violence” and the coaches told team members to “stop the horseplay.”
“Rather than taking any appropriate steps to control, supervise and discipline the students who engaged in physical and sexual assaults, defendants allowed the students to remain unsupervised, creating a hostile and violent environment, which contributed to further sexual and physical assaults,” McLaughlin wrote.
Parents said the students suffered physical injuries, psychological and emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, and humiliation and loss of enjoyment of life as a result of the alleged abuse. They are asking for compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $50,000 on each of three counts including Title IX violations, and negligence, carelessness and recklessness.
According to Carbon County Court paperwork, the district and the two coaches were served with the lawsuit this week.
No court dates had been set as of Wednesday.