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Former LMHS teacher fired for alleged relationship with student sues district

Robert Schanne filed a lawsuit Dec. 19 accusing the district of not allowing him to defend himself against allegations he had a relationship with former Lower Merion High School student Jenna Addis while she was still in school.

Nearly a year after being terminated for allegedly dating 2003 Lower Merion High School graduate Jenna Addis while she was still a student, former LMHS physics teacher Robert Schanne is suing the school district for not allowing him to defend himself against the allegations.

Schanne, 44, seeks payback for all compensation he would have received from the day he was suspended on Dec. 16, 2010 until a verdict is reached for the current case as well as damages for pain, suffering and humiliation. Schanne maintains his relationship with Addis began after she graduated. According to the lawsuit, Lower Merion School District employed Schanne from September 1997 until his suspension.

Filed Dec. 19 in the United States District Court Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania by Schanne's attorneys Timothy Kolman and Wayne Ely, Schanne maintains the Lower Merion School District did not give him a chance to defend himself from the allegations brought forth by Addis in 2010 and provided "false and defamatory communication" to LMHS parents.

Before the Board of School Directors voted to fire Schanne Jan. 24, 2011, Superintendent Christopher McGinley wrote a letter to parents detailing the investigation.

"In December, the district received information alleging that a physics teacher, Robert Schanne, engaged in a dating relationship more than five years ago with an 18-year-old student while she was his student," McGinley said in the Jan. 4 letter. "The evidence does not suggest any criminal conduct by Mr. Schanne. However, it is absolutely unacceptable and inappropriate for any teacher to have this type of relationship with a student."

The suit, filed against the district, McGinley, the LMSD Board of School Directors and Director of Human Resources Marty Yoder, maintains Schanne did not have the opportunity to voice his concerns against the allegations after he wrote a letter the district, which refused to detract the statements made by McGinley in the letter.

Calling it a "baseless and shameless lawsuit," the district said in a statement Schanne was given adequate opportunities to defend himself.

"Mr. Schanne had numerous opportunities to present his case and instead refused to cooperate with the District's investigation," the district said. "His refusal to cooperate formed the basis for denial of his unemployment benefits claim by an independent third party."

Spokesperson for LMSD Doug Young reaffirmed the district's efforts, offering two occasions as example. During an initial meeting between the district and Schanne, the district said Schanne refused to answer questions about his relationship with Addis. On the second occasion, the district said Schanne did not appear.

"The plaintiff was given multiple opportunities to cooperate, and he was ordered to do so by the district," Young said.

LMSD first began its investigation into Schanne's relationship with Addis in November 2010, and ended it when Schanne was let go at the end of January in 2011.

Wayne Ely, Esq., one of Schanne's attorneys, said to his knowledge, the district did not try to contact Schannne to allow him to defend himself. Ely also said at this time, he was not able to discuss the terms of Schanne's current employment search.

In March 2011, Schanne also filed a lawsuit against Addis for assault libel and defamation. The case is still pending.