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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
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Gym Teacher Got Me Hooked, Student Says

(CN) - In a lawsuit where the alleged events are stranger than the fiction of "21 Jump Street," a learning-disabled teen says he was unfairly punished after his gym teacher gave him painkillers.

The federal complaint Alex Wicks filed Wednesday in Pittsburgh identifies the Freedom High School gym teacher in question as James Curtis Summers.

It says Summers was sentenced last year to 23.5 months in prison for the drug issues that gave rise to the allegations. The gym teacher allegedly got hooked on painkillers after undergoing knee replacement surgery.

"It is believed and averred that due to his drug addiction, Summers would target certain vulnerable teenagers and would introduce them to illegal drug use in the hopes that they would be able to acquire such drugs for him in the future," the complaint states.

Wicks, who was identified as learning disability in the first grade and took special education classes at Freedom High, says he was one such student.

The student says he was 15 in the 2011-12 school year when Summers "periodically distributed Percocet pills to plaintiff for his use and consumption."

When Summers wanted to tell students that he had painkillers for them that they could crush and snort through straws in his office, he would use coded language, saying he had "breakfast," according to the complaint.

As the alleged interactions continued into Wicks' junior year, 2012-13, the student says disciplinary actions against him rose.

Summers meanwhile "escalated [the conduct] to the point where he was requesting that plaintiff and other students obtain the pain medications for his use and consumption, in exchange for cash or free hall passes, so that the students, including plaintiff, would not be disciplined for being tardy to other classes," the complaint alleges.

Wicks says the school district knew "of Summers' drug addiction and had concerns about his interactions with students."

The school allegedly conducted an investigation in late 2012 by installing cameras in Summers' office.

Its surveillance footage, which included captured Wicks doing drugs in Summers' office, led to criminal charges against both Summers and Wicks, according to the complaint.

Wicks says Freedom expelled him, and that he copped a plea deal in Beaver County.

"It was objectively unreasonable for the aforesaid defendants to institute expulsing proceedings against the plaintiff, whom said defendants knew or should have known suffered from a severe learning disability, based solely on the improper influence of defendant Summers, whom said defendants knew or should have known distributed and introduced Plaintiff to illegal narcotic medications for illegal consumption," the complaint states.

Wicks seeks compensatory and consequential damages.

The complaint names the school district, Summers and three school officials as defendants. He is represented by Howard Murphy and Justin Papciak with Feldstein Grinberg Lang & McKee.

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