Seneca Valley students show support for former student accused of assault in 'Mean Girls' case
The Seneca Valley student section wore blue Friday to honor seniors on the football field, in the band and on the cheerleading squad.
But some students at NexTier Stadium in Harmony for the game against Hempfield Area High School also used the night to publicly show support for a former classmate who, according to a lawsuit filed by his parents, was wrongly accused of sexual assault.
Referred to only as “T.F.” in court documents, the former Seneca Valley High School student was accused of assaulting two female classmates last year. Now, Michael J. and Alecia Flood of Zelienople, Butler County, have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that their son was terrorized by five “mean girls” — a phrase used in the lawsuit — who made those accusations.
Several student fans wrote or taped phrases such as “We Stand 4 Flood” on the back of their shirts. Similar phrases were also used on Twitter to show support.
“We wanted to get behind them and show that we support them,” Zach Brown, 18, a Seneca Valley senior, said of students’ efforts to support the teen and his family. Brown said he runs the Seneca Valley Student Section Twitter account, where a call to support the family was posted Thursday.
“Reading this story makes me sick to my stomach,” the post said, linking to a Trib story from Wednesday describing the lawsuit filed by the Floods. “This Friday we will show our support for the entire Flood family by putting #WeStand4Flood on the back of our Blue Out Shirts to support this amazing family!! #WeStand4Flood.”
The account description for the student section, which posts from the Twitter handle @SVStudntSection, says the account is led by students and not affiliated with Seneca Valley High School.
Brown and classmate Adam Baer, 18, also a senior, said students also are using the hashtag #SupportTheTruth in an effort to tap into national conversations around the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Several women have publicly accused Kavanaugh, a candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court nominated by President Trump in July, of sexual assault. The Senate is expected to vote on his confirmation this weekend.
“We want to get to the bottom of it, regardless of what the outcome is,” said Baer, who added that he hopes the public will not jump to conclusions about the allegations of assault made against T.F.
“We’re not picking sides over ‘he said, she said,’” Brown said.
The 26-page lawsuit filed in Pittsburgh alleges T.F. “was forced to endure multiple court appearances, detention in a juvenile facility, detention at home, the loss of his liberty and other damages until several of the girls reluctantly admitted that their accusations were false.” The Floods seek unspecified civil damages against the girls’ parents, the school district and Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger’s office.
Mya Orgovan, 18, a senior at Seneca Valley High School, taped “Justice 4 Flood” to the back of her shirt Friday night.
“I’ve always known him to be such a sweet guy,” Orgovan said.
Orgovan said that she’s talked about the lawsuit and assault allegations with her friends. She hopes that T.F. is treated fairly.
Hempfield fans react
Fans in the Hempfield Area visitors’ section also weighed in on the lawsuit as well as bullying in their school community.
Robin Highlands, a Hempfield Area graduate and special education teacher at Logan Elementary School in the East Allegheny School District, read about the lawsuit.
“It’s sad if the boy was innocent and the girls truly made this story up,” she said, adding that she would be sick if her nephews were blamed for something they didn’t do. “His name is still defamed, and that’s not fair to him.”
She said the girls should face some type of punishment if, as they are accused in the lawsuit, the accusations they made are untrue.
Sarah Hayden, 16, a Hempfield Area sophomore, said some kids may get picked on for their clothes or if they’re in different groups, but she’s never heard of anything like what was alleged to have happened at Seneca Valley.
“For some kids it is rough,” she said. “Whether the way they dress or the way they look, they’ll just get picked on for no reason besides the fact that someone doesn’t like something about their appearance or their personality. They’ll nitpick little things. They’ll get their friends, and once one person in a friend group doesn’t like a person, everyone doesn’t like them, and you’re (excluded) from it.”
She said her school has a tip line and other programs to address bullying. If someone makes up stories about another student, she thinks that they should get punished.
Sarah’s mother, Amy Hayden, a 1987 Hempfield Area graduate, said bullying has gotten worse since she was in school, in part because of the internet.
“Social media’s the downfall,” she said.
Sarah’s aunt, Janice Manley, a 1986 Hempfield Area graduate, also thinks times have changed.
“I don’t remember anyone being as mean as they are now,” she said. “It’s completely different.”
Jamie Martines and Mike DiVittorio are Tribune-Review staff writers. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Jamie_Martines. Contact Mike at 412-871-2367, email@example.com or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.