Wife of suspended Penn Hills principal will not have to testify against him
The wife of a suspended Penn Hills middle school principal will not have to testify against him at an administrative hearing before the school board, an Allegheny County judge ruled on Wednesday.
Common Pleas Judge Judith L.A. Friedman quashed a subpoena requiring Lisa Barnett, the wife of Linton Middle School Principal Davaun Barnett, to attend the hearing on Wednesday evening.
The Penn Hills School Board suspended Barnett without pay in June, a month after his wife filed a protection-from-abuse order against him.
Representing herself before Friedman, Lisa Barnett said, “the statute is clear. One spouse cannot be forced to testify against another.”
In the May 7 request, Barnett, a law professor at Duquesne University, said her husband locked her in the couple's family room, then, when he released her, told her to get out of the house.
“He told me that if I did not get out of our home, I would ‘wake up in a pool of my own blood' because he said he was going to ‘slit' my throat,” she said. She said she stayed in her children's room until the next morning because “he kicked me in my back out the bed and spit on me.”
The order alleged that Davaun Barnett came to his wife's class and had to be escorted from the building by university police.
He has denied the allegations. He declined comment on Friedman's ruling and said the hearing “is a private matter.”
“It's closed. It's not open for the public. I chose a private hearing just so I don't have to take my wife, myself and my kids through any issues.”
Lisa Barnett could not be reached for comment after her court appearance.
An Allegheny County judge on May 15 vacated the protection-from-abuse order and instructed Barnett not to harass, stalk, abuse or threaten his wife; not to visit their home for 90 days; to complete an anger management course; and to obtain mental health treatment. The judge ordered the couple to share custody of their two sons, ages 14 and 12.
In August, the school board accused Barnett of neglecting his duties as principal, immorality, cruelty and violations of school policies and school laws of Pennsylvania. In addition to his wife's accusations, the board said he failed to return $300 from a school fundraiser and didn't follow procedure during a bomb threat.
The board said that if the details in the protection order are true, they offend “the morals of the community and set a bad example for the students in the Penn Hills School District whose ideals you are supposed to foster and elevate.”
Ira Weiss, an attorney hired by the school board to run the hearing, said he did not know when the board would make a decision to keep or fire Barnett. Superintendent Thomas K. Washington did not return calls, and district spokeswoman Teresita Kolenchak said the district wouldn't comment on a personnel or legal matter. Members of the school board either did not return calls or could not be reached.
Penn Hills hired Barnett in 2011 at an annual salary of $101,500.
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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