A sexual harassment lawsuit filed in federal court against Allegheny College by one of its students is headed to mediation.
In February 2020, Samantha Simonetta filed a civil rights suit in U.S. District Court in Erie, claiming Allegheny and some of its football coaches ignored her claims of sexual harassment when she tried to join the team as a kicker in 2018.
Attorneys for Simonetta and the college are scheduled to hold a mediation session Aug. 25 through the courts alternative dispute resolution program.
Under mediation, a neutral third party will review issues between Simonetta and Allegheny and attempt to help them settle their dispute without judging the merits of the case.
"As a matter of policy, Allegheny College is not at liberty to discuss any case. The college is unable to provide further comment on this matter," college representatives said in a prepared statement emailed to the Tribune when asked for comment.
Attorneys for the college and Simonetta did not respond to the Tribune's multiple requests for comment.
Simonetta's suit claims she "was subjected to gender-based abuse, harassment, and discrimination" and that she was forced from the team.
Simonetta’s suit seeks unspecified dollar amount in damages for violation of Title IX.
Title IX is a federal statute prohibiting sex-based discrimination in federally funded educational programs. Under Title IX, colleges and universities receiving federal money must investigate accusations of sexual violence to protect students from sex-based discrimination.
The suit names Allegheny College; Bill Ross, Allegheny’s director of athletics; William "B.J." Hammer II, the school’s then-head football coach; Curtis Bailey, an assistant coach; Andrew Fragale, a then-assistant coach; and Nikki Newman, whose position is unidentified.
The suit claims Simonetta notified an assistant football coach about multiple unwanted sexual advances from an unnamed male teammate after she began participating in offseason team workouts. Those workouts took place in January and February 2018.
The suit claims that in mid-February 2018, Simonetta reported the behavior to Bailey, who said he would address it with Hammer.
The suit claims Bailey never addressed Simonetta’s sexual harassment claims or informed the coaching staff of the matter — which came to light during an August 2018 meeting with Allegheny's athletic director and football staff, according to the suit.
The suit claims "football coaching staff had deliberately elected not to proceed with an investigation, opting instead to 'resolve' the issue by forcing her off the football team."
The suit also claims that in September 2018, Simonetta was inappropriately touched by another football team member.
The suit claims "other members of the College’s faculty were aware of previous incidents of sexual misconduct by the perpetrating teammate."
According to the suit, Simonetta formally pursued action through the college against the student “ultimately resulting in a finding on December 17, 2018, that her former teammate had violated the College’s Policy Against Discriminatory and Sexual Harassment, Including: Sexual Assault and Other Forms of Sexual Violence, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence and Stalking."
Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.