School districts pay thousands of dollars to settle complaints of wrongdoing

Sep 3, 2018 by

Matt McKinney –

In 2015, the Mt. Lebanon School District hired a volleyball coach despite getting warnings that he had allegedly behaved inappropriately toward players two decades earlier. Later that year, Brian Begor was suspended and resigned after players accused him of “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature,” according to a federal lawsuit.

Mr. Begor was never charged with a crime, although four high school girls and their parents accused him of sexual misconduct in a 2016 federal lawsuit.

In February, Mt. Lebanon agreed to settle that suit for $40,000.

Each year, local school districts agree to settle allegations of negligence, discrimination and other wrongdoing by the district and its employees.

The agreements allow districts to resolve potentially costly and lengthy court battles without admitting fault. In many cases, the settlements are confidential and limit what the parties can say about them publicly.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette submitted Right-To-Know requests to more than 40 Allegheny County districts seeking settlements over the last five years. Some districts denied the request, claiming it was not sufficiently specific. But responses from more than two dozen area districts demonstrate the types of lawsuits and complaints boards have agreed to settle in recent years.

Some of the settlements — usually paid at least in part by the districts’ insurance carriers — have climbed into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a review of the agreements. The median cost of settlements obtained by the Post-Gazette is about $15,000.

Here are some noteworthy recent settlements, sorted by district:

Mt. Lebanon

As a coach for the Pittsburgh Golden Triangle club volleyball team in 1995, Mr. Begor had regular contact with Mt. Lebanon High School girls players — and with two in particular, according to the 2016 lawsuit. He took them on golf outings, bought them beer, provided hours-long private lessons and performed “oil rub downs” on the teens, the lawsuit claims.

“It is not my fault that they [all girls] fall in love with me,” Mr. Begor reportedly said when Mt. Lebanon High’s then-volleyball coach confronted him about his conduct sometime in 1995, according to an account she shared with school officials, the lawsuit said. The district banned Mr. Begor from school property due to improper contact with players, the lawsuit stated, although Mt. Lebanon contends it instead directed him to stay away from team events to recruit players.

A former assistant coach at the school raised concerns in 2015 with athletic director John Grogan and principal Brian McFeeley, the lawsuit said, but Mt. Lebanon hired Mr. Begor as head volleyball coach anyway. The lawsuit describes Mr. Grogan, who held the same position in the mid-1990s, as a friend of Mr. Begor.

School district payouts

Soon after he was hired, the lawsuit said, Mr. Begor began to subject players to “unwelcome and unwanted conduct of a sexual nature.” Among the examples outlined in the lawsuit: Mr. Begor regularly massaged players’ shoulders and put his arm around them while resting his hand on his penis. One player accused him of photographing a teammate’s “behind.”

Source: School districts pay thousands of dollars to settle complaints of wrongdoing | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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