(CN) – A federal appellate judge granted summary judgment to the Aquinas Academy catholic school in Greensburg, Pa., after its maintenance employee was accused of sexually abusing a kindergarten student.
In a 32-page ruling, Senior U.S. District Judge Donetta W. Ambrose said the student’s parents, William and Lisa Valesky, failed to show that the school’s employee, Nourredine Deslam, engaged in the purported misconduct. Ambrose also held that the parents’ claims the school failed to protect the child were moot after the allegations were made known were baseless.
According to the ruling, the Valeskys became aware of Deslam while they were volunteering in the Aquinas lunchroom. The ruling says Deslam emptied trash and cleaned up during lunch periods and he also maintained the school’s restrooms throughout the day.
Lisa Valesky claimed she observed Deslam “standing over the kindergarten students, going through their lunch boxes and telling them to eat.” The ruling states that Lisa Valesky “admitted that Deslam’s actions occurred in plain view of half dozen adults and all the children, and that only she, her husband and Jane Doe were bothered by the conduct.”
But Lisa Valesky nevertheless filed a “Bullying, Harassment of Intimidation Report Form” against Deslam, claiming that he wrongfully touched her daughter and went through her lunch box. As a result, the mother said, her daughter is terrified of the maintenance employee.
The Valeskys claimed after they withdrew their daughter from Aquinas in Nov. 2008, she “drew a picture of the girls’ restroom at Aquinas with six of her classmates and a man in the picture.” They testified that when their daughter was asked “who the man was in the bathroom,” she “identified the man as Deslam” and that “he touches all of us.” William Valesky further claimed that his daughter said that “she was beside the sink and Deslam was touching her, and that he touched her in the private area.”
On Dec. 2, 2008, the Valeskys reported their allegations to the Greensburg Police Department. A forensic interview was subsequently conducted of their daughter, the ruling says. The following month, Deslam underwent a “voice stress test,” where he denied the allegations, and he “passed the test.”
The District Attorney’s Office closed the case on Jan. 27, 2009, determining that it could not “find any proof of sexual assault” and that “no corroborating evidence was found.”
The ruling notes that “there is also conflicting evidence as to whether kindergarten children were permitted to go into the restroom unaccompanied.”
Deslam, who had been indefinitely suspended following the allegations, was allowed to return to work. In response, the Valeskys sued, accusing the school of constitutional rights violations under Title IX by failing to protect their daughter from Deslam once they received notice of his misconduct.” (
Named defendants in the complaint were Aquinas Academy, and the Archdiocese of Greenburg and Deslam.
Lisa Valesky also accused the school in the complaint of retaliating against her by barring her from volunteering in the school lunchroom. The ban was implemented after she was blamed by another parent of yelling at his daughter on the school’s premises and for grabbing her by the neck and shoulders.
After considering whether the grant the defendants summary judgment dismissing the plaintiffs’ allegations, Ambrose sided with the school “on the grounds that (1) the Diocese and Aquinas are not subject to the requirement of Title IX because they are not recipients of federal financial assistance; (2) the Diocese is a separate entity from Aquinas and has no liability as an employer under Title IX; (3) Plaintiffs have failed to submit sufficient evidence of sexual abuse or harassment to support their Title IX claim; and (4) Defendants had a legitimate reason unrelated to her complaints to deny Lisa Valesky the opportunity to volunteer in the cafeteria.”