- Grove City, Pennsylvania

November 2, 2012

Maxwells seek names as part of lawsuit

By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
Allied News

SLIPPERY ROCK — The parents suing the Slippery Rock Area School District for the strip search they say led to their daughter's suicide want school officials to release the names of the students who said they saw the teen with drugs and the teachers who took the complaint to school leaders.

Shane A. and Sandy D. Maxwell of Portersville, the parents of Tiffani Z. Maxwell, 16, filed additional paperwork Monday as part of their federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh.

Their request ordering the district to release the information had yet to be signed by Judge David S. Cercone as of Thursday.

The Maxwells on Oct. 1 sued the district and school officials for what they believe to be an illegal strip search of Tiffani, who was so upset afterwards she fatally shot herself at home Jan. 15, 2011.

According to the lawsuit and the new court documents, two students reported to two teachers on Jan. 14, 2011 that they saw Tiffani with illegal drugs on the school bus that morning.

The identities of the students and teachers are known only to school officials and the Maxwells believe they have the right to their names.

The Maxwells "may have a cause of action against the unidentified students and teachers" who made the "allegations that culminated in Tiffani's death," and the statute of limitations on their request expires Jan. 14.

Tiffani was strip searched by Kristie Shulsky, high school principal, and Joan Timko, high school nurse. No drugs were found but Tiffani was immediately suspended for 10 days, causing her to fear she wouldn't advance to 12th grade.

She was also distraught because of Shulsky's accusations and "verbal abuse" during the search, which lasted about two hours.

School officials had previously deemed Tiffani a special needs student because she was insecure and had been raped twice by a fellow student, something that should have been taken into consideration before the strip search, the Maxwells said.

Mrs. Maxwell told John Daniel Szolek, assistant high school principal, she drove Tiffani to school Jan. 14 and requested he review security tapes from the bus to show she wasn't there. He refused to do so and did not change her suspension.

Tiffani was frustrated school officials believed the unnamed students over her and was upset about the suspension for drugs she never had or took, her parents said.

Mrs. Maxwell was home when Tiffani shot herself in the base of the skull and found her body after hearing the gun go off.

The district, Shulsky, Szolek, Timko and Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Nogay are named as defendants in the lawsuit. They're represented by Patricia A. Monahan of Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, Pittsburgh.

The Maxwells' attorneys are Barbara S. Ochs and Daniel T. Godinich of Evans, Garvey, Lackey & Ochs, Sharon. They're seeking an unspecified amount of money for their daughter's wrongful death, the violation of her civil rights, legal fees and related damages.

School officials have said the district and its employees are confident the lawsuit lacks any basis in fact or law.

Published Oct. 20, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.