Woman sues Chambersburg school district, claims former high school principal harassed her

Written by Jim Hook/The Chambersburg Public Opinion | Mar 9, 2018 2:53 PM

CASD logo (Photo: Public Opinion)

(Harrisburg) -- A Chambersburg Area School District employee has sued the district for alleged gender-based harassment and retaliation.

Carly Patla, former parent-teacher liaison at Chambersburg Area Senior High School, filed a lawsuit on Jan. 2 in the U.S. Middle District Court of Pennsylvania.

It is unclear whether Patla is currently a CASD employee. CASD Director for Human Resources Bob Nance declined to verify her employment. 

Patla claims in court documents that the school district conducted an "unfair, biased and overly overt investigation" of her complaint about then-CASHS Principal Burdette "Buddy" Chapel. The alleged harassment and retaliation took place from October 2014 to September 2015.

Chapel retired prior to the end of his five-year contract with CASD. He agreed to early retirement in August 2016, about a year earlier than planned. The CASD board said only that the separation was by mutual agreement. The retirement agreement forbade both Chapel and CASD from discussing its terms or the reasons behind his retirement.

Patla, who used Coffey as her last name around the time of the alleged harassment, claims she suffered in a hostile work environment. Witnesses in the district's own investigation indicated that Chapel yelled at her, berated her, stared at her in public, made inappropriate comments in public about her, cut conversations short with her and spoke to parents and CASD co-workers about her. His behavior led to her being denied a job transfer and pay raises as well as receiving negative job performance reviews.

Patla's documents said she made it clear that bullying and harassment by Chapel was based on her gender, but the school district failed to follow its own policy to address her grievance. The district also failed to consider other complaints that indicated a clear pattern of Chapel's harassment of female employees.

Chapel is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

CASD is responsible for Chapel's behavior because the district did not promptly or completely investigate her complaint or attempt to correct the harassing behavior, according to Patla's documents. The district also failed to follow its own formal agreement that attempted to remedy her complaint.

"The district is aware of the complaint and will respond appropriately in its defense of the complaint," said Bob Nace, CASD director for human resources. "Meanwhile, the district is not at liberty to discuss confidential personnel matters or to respond to issues relating to litigation."

Patla filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Equal Opportunity Commission after the school district had been dealing with her complaint for more than 190 days, 140 days past CASD's own policy deadline, according to court documents. She filed with the EOC on June 26, 2015, and the commission on Oct. 4 issued a letter to Patla granting her the right to sue CASD.

Acting as her own attorney, Patla alleges the school district violated the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. She seeks an unspecified amount for back pay, front pay, court costs and compensation for emotional distress and loss of standing in the community. She also wants the school district to prevent further gender-based discrimination and to mitigate any possible retaliation against her.

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The Chambersburg Public Opinion

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