SCRANTON – Wayne Highlands Middle School math teacher Timothy Wood was wrongfully named in a federal lawsuit accusing officials of illegally strip-searching a student, according to the school district's lawyer.
The suit claims Wood taught a gym class and participated in the strip search of Ryan Highhouse at Honesdale High School.
“Defendant Wood is a mathematics teacher at the Middle School, never taught gym at the high school, never taught Plaintiff at the high school and did not participate in any search of the Plaintiff,” district lawyer John E. Freund III, of Bethlehem, says in court papers. “Defendant Wood is named in this complaint erroneously and should be dismissed … from this action.”
Contacted Tuesday, Wood said, “I'm just disgusted that it's gone this far.”
Wood said he wasn't sure if the error was due to a lack of veracity on Highhouse's part or by sloppy legal work, but it deeply affected him and his family.
The teacher said the suit was widely reported on in the media and it upset his family, including his children, who had to read and hear about untrue allegations.
Wood said he has explored avenues regarding legal action against Highhouse's lawyers, Matthew T. Comerford and Curt M. Parkins of Scranton, but was told his options are limited.
He added, “I'm looking forward to seeing how the whole thing plays out in court,” noting the school district has been very supportive of him.
Comerford and Parkins could not be reached Tuesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Freund is seeking to have the entire suit tossed as well.
Highhouse, of Damascus Township, filed the suit in January saying he was unlawfully strip searched on Feb. 11, 2014, after school officials believed he stole $250 from another student.
The suit states Wood and Vice Principal John Kretschmer confined the then-16-year-old Highhouse to a room and forced him to take off his clothes.
Court papers don't say if the stolen money was retrieved from Highhouse, but the suit said the officials performed an unreasonable search and “seizure.”
It was unclear what other school official was with Kretschmer at the time of the alleged search, but Freund said they had an “individualized suspicion” that Highhouse possessed the stolen money and “reasonable grounds” to search him.
“The search of the Plaintiff was reasonable in its scope given its objective and Plaintiff's sex and age,” Freund wrote.
In addition to Wood and Kretschmer, named as defendants are Superintendent Greg Frigoletto and high school Principal Diane Scarfalloto.
Frigoletto and Scarfalloto should be dismissed from the suit because “plaintiff never attributes any specific conduct or statements to Frigoletto or Scarfalloto, nor establishes that either Defendant participated in violating the plaintiff's rights, directed others to violate them, or as the person in charge, had knowledge of alleged violations,” Freund wrote.