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Lawyers join clash over New Kensington-Arnold's Ten Commandments display

| Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 12:34 a.m.

Three attorneys have signed on to help defend New Kensington-Arnold School District in a federal lawsuit over the Ten Commandments display at Valley High School.

District solicitor Tony Vigilante on Thursday would not confirm that the additional legal help means the district plans to engage in a court battle with the Freedom From Religion Foundation and district parents who have demanded the monument be removed.

However, Vigilante said the district has no plans to remove the Decalogue in the immediate future.

School board President Bob Pallone declined to comment.

The school board on Thursday unanimously agreed to appoint the Pittsburgh law firm of Jackson Lewis as special counsel for the case. The appointment came in a 6-0 vote because board members Eric Doutt, Deb Glushenko and Pat Petit were absent.

Vigilante said an attorney at the firm is a Valley High graduate who agreed to accept the case at no cost except for any associated court costs, out-of-pocket expenses or other fees.

Additionally, Vigilante said the district's insurance carrier, School Claims Service through the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, will help defend the district against the claim.

Vigilante said the only potential cost to the district would be the insurance deductible. That amount was not immediately available.

According to court records, attorneys Amie A. Thompson and Anthony G. Sanchez from the Pittsburgh firm Andrews & Price signed on as counsel for the district on Wednesday. Vigilante said they are the insurance company's attorneys.

The district has not yet formally responded to the lawsuit filed on Sept. 14 by the foundation, two district parents and their children.

The plaintiffs believe displaying the monument on public school property violates the Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.

The foundation also has filed a similar lawsuit against the Connellsville Area School District, which has a Ten Commandments monument at its junior high school.

Thompson and another Andrews & Price attorney also are representing the Connellsville district.

Liz Hayes is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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