The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


June 18, 2014

Midd-West School District seeks dismissal of federal lawsuit

WILLIAMSPORT — The Midd-West School District, its board members and solicitor have asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the suspended acting superintendent.

Motions were filed Tuesday in U.S. Middle District Court on behalf of the defendants in the suit filed by Daphine Snook who alleges violations of her civil rights, violation of the Pennsylvania School Code, breach of contract defamation and abuse of process.

Snook was hired in August 2011 as assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and technology, named acting superintendent in December after Wesley Knapp resigned and was suspended without pay in April after being accused of illegally monitoring district emails.

An investigation by the Snyder County district attorney’s office determined she had not committed any crime.

The district and board members contend Snook is not entitled to the relief she seeks because has failed to set forth a cause of action.    Board members claim it is well established redundant claims against public officers in their official capacity must be dismissed if they also have been made against the public entity. The dismissal motion also contends the school directors are entitled to immunity.

As does solicitor Orris Knepp III, the district and board members contend the suit is premature because Snook has failed to exhaust all administrative remedies in the Pennsylvania Public School Code. Further, they argue she has not been terminated.

They claim Snook is well aware of the nature of the case against her and the process that is unfolding.

Knepp contends he cannot be held liable under Snook’s claims her First and 14th Amendment rights were violated.

He disputes her claim she was acting as a private citizen when she issued statements about an individual reading program she implemented called Readers Workshop.

Snook does not live in the school district and she made her statements about the reading program because she believed it was in the best interest of the students, his motion states.

Knepp called it a disagreement with the school board over policy and how to educate students that is not entitled to First Amendment protection.

With regard to her due process claim, the motion contends she received a name-clearing hearing when the district attorney’s office determined there would no criminal charges.

As to Snook’s defamation claim, Knepp claims she failed to say when the statements were made and by whom.

All the defendants ask Judge Robert D. Mariani not to exercise jurisdiction over Snook’s claims made under state law if he dismisses the federal ones.


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