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Parents sue 2 Pennsylvania school districts over 15-year-old girl's assault by musical teacher

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PITTSBURGH — The parents of a girl who was 15 when she was sexually assaulted by a visiting teacher who headed a southwestern Pennsylvania high school musical have sued both districts and two school officials in one district who they claim failed to help the girl.

The federal lawsuit, filed using pseudonyms to protect the girl's identity, targets the Charleroi Area School District; its high school principal, Patricia Mason; and a teacher, Jennifer Joyce, who was previously prosecuted on a related charge that she didn't report the sexual relationship to proper authorities.

Also sued is the Bethlehem-Center School District where Jeffrey Hahn, 25, was a seventh-grade teacher when he was loaned to produce a high school musical at Charleroi. Both districts are in Washington County and located about 20 miles south of Pittsburgh.

Hahn is serving four to eight years in prison for having sex with the girl in a school auditorium storage room in May 2012. He pleaded guilty to sexual assault, statutory sexual assault and institutional sexual assault of a minor, among other crimes.

The girl, who is now 17, and her parents filed the lawsuit July 15.

Beth-Center's superintendent and solicitor declined to comment. The same officials in the Charleroi Area School District did not immediately return messages seeking comment Monday.

The lawsuit contends Beth-Center officials knew that Hahn had "engaged in inappropriate relationships and contacts with female students" but didn't fully investigate them or discipline Hahn before loaning him to Charleroi.

Hahn met the girl in March 2012 and began phoning and texting her before escalating the relationship.

"Hahn's conduct included more physical interaction with Jane Doe, including handholding, hugs and other physical contact, often in public and in plain view of other students and teachers," the lawsuit said.

Hahn asked the girl to help store some stage props in a basement storage room of the Charleroi school auditorium before he "subdued, sexually assaulted and forcibly raped minor plaintiff" during which time the girl's head banged against a wall and bled, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit contends Joyce supervised Hahn when he produced the musical and was told about the girl's relationship with Hahn by the girl and two of her friends.

"Joyce merely warned Hahn to stop the inappropriate relationship, but did not further investigate the matter or take disciplinary action" — nor did she contact authorities, the lawsuit said.

Joyce, 29, of Bellevue, entered a first-offender's program that allowed her to serve a year's probation without pleading guilty to the charge of not properly reporting the relationship. Her criminal defense attorney did not immediately return a call for comment.

Mason, the principal, allegedly failed to let the girl have counseling for the assault during school time, and didn't act to stop other students who had learned about the encounter from harassing the girl. She also allegedly failed to have the bloodstain cleaned off the wall where the girl was assaulted, told the girl to stop "bothering" teachers with her problems and allegedly accused the girl of "changing your story so many times that no one believes you."

The girl eventually left the district and enrolled in cyber school.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

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