A former Conestoga High School assistant football coach ousted for allegedly failing to supervise players accused of sodomizing a teammate with a broom handle has filed suit against school officials and the boy’s father, five months after assault charges were dropped.
Thomas Batgos, who coached at Conestoga for 11 years, accused the principal, the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District superintendent, and the father of fraud, defamation, and misrepresentation, among other complaints.
He said school officials damaged his reputation and ruined chances for future employment when they posted online a letter to the school community blaming coaches for a lack of oversight shortly after the Chester County District Attorney's Office announced charges against his players in March 2016. He is accusing the boy's father of lying to police about what happened to his son.
Batgos, whom school officials forced out with his colleagues, is seeking at least $50,000 in compensation as well as punitive damages.
School officials blamed the coaches, but Gerard P. Egan, an attorney representing Batgos, said they had not told coaches they were required to supervise players in the locker rooms.
Since Batgos did not work at the high school except as a coach, his routine was to go directly to the football field without entering the school, the suit says.
"They rushed to judgment without all the facts. And in that rush to judgment, they destroyed my client’s reputation that he has built up over years of selfless coaching," Egan said. "They looked to cover themselves, their own inadequacies, by blaming the coaches."
Joseph P. Connor III, an attorney representing Superintendent Richard Gusick and Conestoga High principal Amy Meisinger, said: “It’s the district’s policy not to comment on any pending litigation.” Court documents do not list an attorney for the father of the boy who accused his teammates of assault.
Batgos' lawsuit, filed last week in Chester County Court, is the latest development in a case that drew negative national attention to one of the nation's top-ranked public high schools for academics.
At a news conference in March 2016, Chester County District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan accused three players, who were 17 at the time, of holding down their freshman teammate and penetrating his rectum with a broom handle.
The players faced charges of assault, unlawful restraint, and related offenses. The case concluded with the former players pleading to harassment charges, an agreement the younger player accepted.
A joint statement in January from the District Attorney's Office and defense attorneys announcing the agreement cast the incident in a new light. It said the three accused former players admitted to "briefly" holding down the boy and poking him in the leg with a broomstick after they said he tried to get out of cleaning the locker room with other underclassmen. The boy also signed off on the statement, which did not mention penetration.
Members of the Conestoga community point to the statement and the dropping of the most serious charges as proof that no assault occurred. The District Attorney's Office has stood by its initial account of what happened in the locker room, despite the statement.
School officials last year said their internal investigation found hazing had occurred for years in the Berwyn school, including upperclassmen's placing their genitals on younger players. The incident with the freshman player happened during an act of hazing, they said. Batgos has said no such hazing occurred.
Popular head coach John Vogan resigned, and school administrators removed the other five varsity and junior-varsity football coaches. None of the other former football coaches has sued.
The boy who accused his teammates of assault said it happened in October 2015. At the time, police were investigating the boy for distributing sexually explicit photographs of a female middle school classmate, an incident for which the boy was later removed from Conestoga. The district attorney has said the cases were unrelated.