Former Hempfield student sues teacher over battery, emotional distress |
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Rich Cholodofsky

Parents of a former Hempfield Area High School student filed a lawsuit this week, claiming their son was assaulted, intimidated and harassed by a teacher and, ultimately, forced to move to another school.

According to the Westmoreland County court filing, the family contends John Testa Jr., a technology education teacher, forcefully hit the student during an incident on a school bus in 2013 when the boy served as a student manager for the middle school’s wrestling team.

The student is identified in court documents only by his initials. The lawsuit contends Testa initially was removed from his role with the middle school team but continued to remain involved with the high school squad, causing the student — described in the lawsuit as an accomplished wrestler — to quit because of anxiety.

Testa did not respond Wednesday to calls seeking comment.

Superintendent Tammy Wolicki said Testa remains on staff at the high school. He teaches technology education classes and serves as a department chair, according to the school’s website.

“We are just becoming aware of it,” Wolicki said of allegations in the lawsuit. “We’ll be looking into it to see what is stated and see if it is what happened in school.”

The school district was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, the student initially was pulled out of Hempfield to attend an online charter school but returned to attend the 11th grade. The lawsuit states he was assigned to two classes taught by Testa, who harassed the teen in school hallways, blocked the doorway and stairs that led to the school’s wrestling room, sat close to him in class and made him feel uncomfortable.

The student developed a psychosomatic rash because of anxiety and fear, his grades suffered and resulted in his eventually being removed from the school, according to the lawsuit.

“The relationship between the parties is one of inequality. The defendant possessed a position of overmastering influence while the (student) possessed one of weakness, dependence and trust,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for three counts: battery, emotional distress and breach of fiduciary duty.

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