The Ambridge Area School District has filed its response to a federal lawsuit brought by former superintendent Cynthia Zurchin. The district and several other named defendants are each denying claims brought against them by Zurchin back in June, including allegations of sex discrimination, retaliation, civil rights violations, breach of contract, and wrongful discharge.

Dr. Zurchin’s lawsuit alleges her various experiences at the district were so traumatic they caused her to be hospitalized with stroke-like symptoms, and that her long-time doctor subsequently diagnosed her with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression — leading to an extended medical leave and ultimately a disability retirement.

The latest round of court filings by the Ambridge Area School District, School Board members Robert Keber, Roger Kowal, and Kimberly Locher, former Board member Brian Padgett, and former Assistant Superintendent Megan Mealie, deny the claims against them and make arguments of legal inadequacies in the complaint filed by Zurchin.

Among the many items addressed in the district’s response is a claim by Zurchin that officials had engaged in a conspiracy to see her publicly denigrated.

“For example, and as a result of the Defendants’ intent to incite public opposition, Dr. Zurchin was publicly and falsely accused of running a meth lab and engaging in Satanic worship,” wrote attorneys for Zurchin in her complaint. “Defendants engaged in a deliberate, malicious and ongoing pattern of abusive and threatening behavior intending to cause Dr. Zurchin physical, emotional and economic harm.”

In its response, the Ambridge Area School District disavowed any responsibility for the remarks against Zurchin, which attorneys say was nothing more than an attempt at humor by a member of the community.

“It is admitted only that an Ambridge area resident and parent made statements on a private Facebook group page to the effect that he had heard [Dr. Zurchin] ran a meth lab and worshiped Satan,” responded the district in its court filing. “In the same Facebook thread, the resident indicated that he was joking. It is specifically denied that the District had any involvement in this incident in particular or that the District is responsible for what taxpayers say on social media.”

The Beaver Countian had written about the comment controversy back in 2015, after Zurchin filed a police report against the man who had made the Facebook post.

Other items addressed in the defendants’ responses include denials of claims by Dr. Zurchin that a school official said she would be hung by a noose, and that the district arranged for added security at public meetings because of fears that a Board member may show up with a gun.

The District also denied accusations by Zurchin that an incident involving the arrest of a student by an Ambridge Patrolman was an example of race relation problems in the district (which she was allegedly attempting to rectify): “It is specifically denied that the interaction between [Officer] Smith and [the student], who are both African-American, was an example of discord between minority and non-minorities within the District.”

The case is being presided over by United States District Judge Nora Barry Fischer. The Beaver Countian is making the substantive court filings available in full below.

Federal Court Filings In The Case Of Cynthia Zurchin v. Ambridge Area School District et al

Cynthia Zurchin: Complaint Filed Against School District et al
School District: Response To Complaint
Padgett: Response To Complaint
Keber – Kowal – Locher: Motion To Dismiss For Failure To State a Claim
Keber – Kowal – Locher: Brief In Support Of Motion To Dismiss
Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Exhibit C
Exhibit D
Mealie: Motion To Dismiss For Failure To State A Claim
Mealie: Brief In Support Of Motion To Dismiss

John Paul
John Paul is the founder of the Beaver Countian. He reports full-time for the site, specializing in investigative journalism with an emphasis on public corruption.

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economyresident
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economyresident

well, her PTSD didn’t stop her from being able to dance or teach at her dance school… what a wretched woman. How can you claim to suffer from a condition that so many honorable men and women have developed during their selfless service to our Nation? How can you blame others for the conditions you created and fostered? You thought you were royalty when in fact you were nothing more than a surf. You didn’t get your way so now you fabricate tales in a pathetic attempt at pulling others down with you. Not that I am a fan of Brian or Roger… but, seriously just go away and let the District rebuild from the disaster that was you!

arealregularguy
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arealregularguy

Although I think that the comments on Facebook about her running a meth lab and worshipping Satan are kind of funny, the commenter admitted that he was joking when he posted those comments. But for her to accuse the School Board of those comments is kind of far-fetched….Boy, I’ll bet the Moon School Board is very happy to be rid of her and is laughing at the Ambridge School Board for hiring this disaster!

breakerchains
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breakerchains

The only thing the Ambridge School District Board is guilty of is bad decision making. Over the years they have hired a number of school superintendents that were paid way too much money and then were gone. Sometimes paying for one superintendent to be gone and another to be active in the position. This is the same case with this person. A bad hire. Maybe there should be an independent investigation and evaluation of these people before hiring them. If there are only bad candidates then don’t hire anyone. The board is wasting the public’s money needlessly instead of having it to pay the bills. Maybe we need members on the board who are qualified to actually run a school instead of just someone we know or like their name.

Accordingtome
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Accordingtome

There should be a minimum set of requirements that must be met in order to run for school board director. Too many districts have school boards comprised of people whose only qualification is knowing what a school is. If your biggest accomplishment in life involves some sport that you played in high school then you aren’t qualified to be on a school board.

wind
Member
wind

Too many have only one qualification…they breathe. Period.

arealregularguy
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arealregularguy

That has been a problem in both the Borough of Ambridge and the Ambridge School District for years….People don’t take the time to research candidates for office…….they just vote for a name that they recognize.

wind
Member
wind

It’s ridiculous to have so many districts in this county to begin with. One county district would make sense but superintendents and boards don’t want to give up their perceived power.