Lower Merion graduate seeks dismissal of Schanne defamation suit

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Lower Merion High School fired teacher Robert G. Schanne over an affair with a former student. (Charles Fox / Staff Photographer)

A Lower Merion High School graduate whose former science teacher was fired after she told administrators that they had an affair while she was a student has asked a judge to throw out the teacher's defamation lawsuit against her.

Jenna Addis, 26, contends that the Lower Merion School District is a "quasi-judicial entity" under state law and that her allegations against Robert Schanne, 46, should be exempt from libel and slander claims, as civil lawsuits are.

In a motion filed Tuesday in federal court in Philadelphia, Addis' lawyer said, "Schanne's complaint is legally insufficient . . . and it must be dismissed."

The document was the first word from Addis, now a New Orleans resident, since her explosive allegations rippled through the elite school district in December.

At that time, Addis privately told school officials that she and Schanne, an award-winning physics teacher who was not married, had begun dating when she was a senior in 2003. She alleged that flirting had escalated to hugging, kissing, and oral sex by the spring of her final year, according to court documents.

Without detailing the allegations or identifying the student, the school board voted to fire Schanne, who had taught at Lower Merion since 1997.

In March, Schanne sued Addis, portraying her as a spurned lover who sought to "personally and professionally destroy" him because he had rejected her. Schanne contends they didn't start seeing each other until Addis was 18 and had graduated, and described theirs as "an occasional intimate relationship" that lasted from 2004 until he ended it last year.

Addis' lawyer, Stephen J. Britt, said Wednesday that she disputed the teacher's account and timing of the affair. "She says it happened," he said. "She told the school district it happened while she was a student."

Britt's motion said Schanne was appealing his firing, but he wasn't sure whether the teacher was trying to regain his job or seeking unemployment benefits. A district spokesman was also unsure.

Schanne's attorneys, Timothy Kolman and Wayne Ely, could not be reached for comment.

 


Contact staff writer John P. Martin at 215-854-4774 or jmartin@phillynews.com.