ShareThis Page

Parents sue New Kensington-Arnold School District over daughter's suicide

| Saturday, May 14, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

An Arnold couple claims in a federal lawsuit that the New Kensington-Arnold School District and six school officials did nothing to stop the “severe and pervasive” bullying that they believe led to their daughter's suicide.

Julie and Timothy Krebs say, as a result of three years of bullying, their daughter Destinee, 14, went from an A student to failing and was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and anorexia. The girl hanged herself at home in February 2015, according to the lawsuit filed Friday in Pittsburgh.

The district violated Destinee's rights through “perpetual failures and egregious non-responsiveness to repeated pleas for help and protection from peer harassment and bullying,” the lawsuit alleges.

The suit names the school district as a defendant, as well as Valley Jr./Sr. High School Principal Jon Banko, Assistant Principals Todd Kutchak and Jeffrey Thimons, guidance counselors David Zamperini and Tierra LaPrade-Weaver and Patrick Nee, principal of the former Valley Middle School and now principal at Roy A. Hunt Elementary in the district.

Superintendent John Pallone said Saturday the district takes bullying allegations seriously.

“We review all the information we receive and conduct an internal investigation to determine if there is validity,” he said. “We have all the appropriate measures in place to deal with student issues.

“It was an unfortunate tragedy for that family. I am very sensitive to their loss.”

Zamperini declined to discuss the case. “It's not appropriate for me to comment,” he said.

None of the other defendants could be reached for comment Saturday.

What the suit claims

The Krebs say the district failed to have their daughter evaluated for special education services and failed to follow its policy of promptly investigating and responding to bullying allegations.

They say the bullying began when Destinee started seventh grade in 2012-13, with some students insulting her daily. Eventually, Destinee began to lose weight, and her grades declined. The bullying continued in eighth grade, and Destinee began cutting herself, the lawsuit says.

Julie Krebs contacted Kutchak about the harassment.

“Kutchak advised parents only that this was just something that girls did,” according to the lawsuit.

When Destinee was assaulted by a student in spring 2014, high school officials told her to provide a written summary of each bullying incident to Nee, Kutchak or LaPrade-Weaver.

About a week later, the Krebses were told that it was unlikely the bullying would be addressed with only Destinee's accounts as evidence, the lawsuit says.

“Kutchak instead assured Mrs. Krebs that the district need not act because the ‘troublemakers' would either cease tormenting Destinee or would likely drop out of school by ninth grade.”

Destinee continued to provide bullying reports, but the district did nothing, the lawsuit says.

In Destinee's ninth-grade year, a student assaulted her outside school, breaking her nose and bruising her eye. The student was charged with simple assault, the lawsuit says.

The Krebs met with school officials, and Kutchak said he would tell the students to leave her alone.

During the meeting, Zamperini, a guidance counselor, allegedly “pressed Destinee to admit that she was responsible for the fights and that she had done something wrong to provoke (the other student),” the lawsuit says.

On Feb. 3, 2015, Destinee testified at a court hearing on the assault.

The next day, she left school early. Julie Krebs came home to find a note from her daughter that said, “the pain needs to end.” She found her daughter dead in the garage.

Jodi Weigand is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4702 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.