PHILADELPHIA It has been three years since a former student filed a federal lawsuit against Indian River Central School District claiming anti-gay discrimination. But despite the fact that the parties have been exchanging information about witnesses for the past year and there is still no trial date set, an attorney for the plaintiff said the discovery process has not been set back.
Its been moving forward, said Lambda Legal senior staff attorney Thomas W. Ude Jr., who is representing plaintiff Charles P. Pratt. A number of depositions have been scheduled through late September and then motions after.
The attorney for Indian River in the case, Charles C. Spagnoli, said that because of confidentiality requirements he could not give any information beyond what has been filed with the court. On June 28 he sought a protective order preventing the discovery of evidence that is not relevant to Mr. Pratt.
The case involves former student Mr. Pratt, joined in the case by his sister, Ashley E. Petranchuk, and claims he was called names, physically assaulted and threatened for being gay until he dropped out of the high school when he was 15. He also claims that Superintendent James Kettrick, then the high school principal, knew he was being harassed and threatened but refused to take action.
The plaintiffs also claim that district and school officials dismissed their attempts at starting a gay-straight alliance at the school.
They are being represented by Lambda Legal, a national organization based in New York City that defends the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Its a factually complicated case, Mr. Ude said. It happened over a number of years. Its more complicated than, say, a two-party accident. This involves a number of incidents that happened over a period of time.
The school district sought to have the case dismissed shortly after it was filed in 2009, but U.S. District Court, Syracuse, ruled last year that the case may proceed.
The court also had approved the U.S. Justice Departments participation as a friend of the court in the case.
Mr. Ude said he thinks his clients claims are strong and plans to press forward. The plaintiffs are asking for punitive damages as well as attorney fees and costs.
The biggest concern that both Charles and Ashley have is that no student goes through what they went through, Mr. Ude said. Thats what is real objective is.