United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MARILYN J. HORAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
lawsuit was brought by husband and wife Plaintiffs, Robert
Razzano and Barbara Razzano, against Defendants, the New
Castle Area School District (the "School District")
and John Sarandrea, the Superintendent of the School
District. The Razzanos' claims arise out of
Defendants' alleged defamatory statements on a
statutorily required Pennsylvania state disclosure form which
was submitted to one of Mr. Razzano5s potential educational
employers. Said statements occurred several years after Mr.
Razzano voluntarily resigned from employment with the School
District. Mr. Razzano resigned during an investigation into
allegations lodged by School District employees against Mr.
Razzano concerning his inappropriate conduct towards adults.
filed a First Amended Complaint on February 28, 2018,
asserting four claims against the Defendants. ECF No. 21. In
Count I, Robert Razzano asserts a Defamation claim against
Defendant, John Sarandrea. In Count II, Mr. Razzano asserts a
Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claim, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, against both Defendants. In Count III, Mr.
Razzano asserts a claim of Intentional Interference with
Prospective Contractual Relations against both Defendants.
Finally, in Count IV, Barbara Razzano asserts a Loss of
Consortium claim against Mr. Sarandrea. Pending before the
Court are each of the parties' cross-motions for partial
summary judgment as to Counts I, II, and III. ECF Nos. 63,
67, & 72. As more fully explained below, Plaintiffs'
Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted with respect to
Count I and denied with respect to Count II. The School
District's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted as
to Count II and Count III. Mr. Sarandrea's Motion for
Summary Judgment will be granted as to Count II.
Razzano was hired as teacher by the New Castle Area School
District in 1994. Robert Allen Razzano Dep. 5, Sept. 21,
2018. In 1999, he was promoted to Assistant Principal for the
Junior High School and the Senior High School. Id.
In 2013, Mr. Razzano was promoted to Junior High School
Principal, a position he held until his resignation on April
7, 2014. Id. During the time Mr. Razzano was the
Junior High School Principal, his supervisor was Defendant,
John Sarandrea, the Superintendent of the School District.
John Sarandrea Dep. 5, Aug. 28, 2018.
early 2014, Mr. Razzano was placed on administrative leave
with pay, following allegations from other employees that Mr.
Razzano had engaged in sexual harassment towards adults.
Razzano Dep. 7. During the School District's
investigation into the allegations, Mr. Razzano instituted an
action in Mandamus in March, 2014, alleging that the
investigation did not conform precisely to the District's
Harassment Policy. Am. Compl. ¶ 10, ECF No. 21. In his
Mandamus action, Mr. Razzano sought relief from certain
aspects of the investigation. Id. Thereafter, the
parties entered into a confidential Settlement Agreement and
Release of Mr. Razzano's Mandamus lawsuit, resulting, in
part, in Mr. Razzano's voluntary resignation from
employment, effective April 7, 2014. Am. Compl. ¶¶
his resignation from the School District, Mr. Razzano sought
employment in administration or teaching in his chosen field
of education. Mr. Razzano's job search overwhelmingly
focused on Pennsylvania educational entities and involved
direct contact with children. As part of the application
process for such a position, and pursuant to an amendment to
Pennsylvania's Public School Code, known as Act 168,
before a potential employer may hire an applicant, the
employer must require both the applicant and the
applicant's former employer to submit a completed form to
the potential employer, entitled "Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania Sexual Misconduct/Abuse Disclosure Release"
("Act 168 Form"). 24 Pa. Stat. Ann. §
1-111.1(b); Am. Compl. ¶¶ 14, 15; Razzano Dep.
38-39; Lyons Dep. 14-15. The Act 168 Form requires the
applicant and the former employer School District to complete
a form and to check either "Yes" or "No"
in response to the following questions:
To the best of your knowledge, has Applicant ever [b]een
the subject of an abuse 'or sexual misconduct
investigation by an employer, state licensing agency, law
enforcement agency or child protective services agency
(unless the investigation resulted in a finding that the
allegations were false)?
To the best of your knowledge, has Applicant ever [b]een
disciplined, discharged, non-renewed, asked to resign from
employment, resigned from or otherwise separated from
employment while allegations of abuse or sexual misconduct
were pending or under investigation or due to adjudication or
findings of abuse or sexual misconduct?
Am. Compl. ¶15. As used in the Act 168 Form,
"abuse" and "sexual misconduct" refer
only to conduct involving a student or child. 24 P.S.
§1-111.1 (n). All parties agree that Mr. Razzano has
never been the subject of an investigation of alleged
"abuse" or "sexual misconduct" involving
a student or a child. Am. Compl. ¶ 20; Sarandrea Answer,
¶ 20; School District Answer, ¶ 20; Sarandrea Resp.
to Pltfs.5 First Set Req. for Admissions, ¶¶ 3, 6;
Razzano Dep. 38; Sarandrea Dep. 66, 74-75.
2014, Mr. Razzano applied for an Assistant Principal position
at North Allegheny School District, and for an administration
position at Youngstown East School District, and for an
administration position at Vincentian Academy, and for a
position as a teacher/teacher evaluator at Slippery Rock
University. Razzano Dep. 17-23. He was not hired for any of
these positions; thus no Act 168 was submitted to the
potential employers. In 2015, he applied for an Assistant
Principal position at Laurel District High School, and for an
Athletic Director position at South Side Beaver. Razzano Dep.
23-25. He did not obtain either of these jobs and no Act 168
was submitted to those potential employers.
2016, he applied to be the Athletic Director at Moon School
District. Razzano Dep. 26-27. He was not hired, and he did
not have to provide an Act 168 Form. Next, he was offered
employment as a substitute teacher at the North Catholic High
School (formerly Cardinal Wuerl). Razzano Dep. 27. Pursuant
to Act 168, before North Catholic could hire Mr. Razzano, Mr.
Razzano and his former employer the School District, had to
submit completed Act 168 Forms to North Catholic. Razzano
Dep. 29. The Act 168 Form was completed accurately by Mr.
Sarandrea on behalf of the School District, wherein he
answered "No" to the above two Act 168 questions.
Razzano Dep. 29-31; Sarandrea Dep. 53, 57. Mr. Razzano was
called to substitute from September 2016 through November
2016. Razzano Dep. 28.
Winter 2016, Mr. Razzano applied to the Lawrence County
Career and Technology Center for the position of Principal.
Razzano Dep. 31-33. He was not hired, and no Act 168 Form was
completed. In 2016, he was hired as a Behavior Specialist
Counselor for Vocational Psychological Services, however, he
was not required to provide an Act 168 Form for that
position. Razzano Dep. 33-36. Finally, in 2016, Mr. Razzano
worked as a substitute teacher at two schools located in
Ohio, Poland and Youngstown Area. The Ohio schools were not
subject to Pennsylvania's Act 168 Form requirements.
Razzano Dep. 36.
February 2017, Mr. Razzano applied for employment as a
substitute teacher at Kennedy Catholic High School
("Kennedy Catholic"). Razzano Dep. 36-37; William
C. Lyon Dep. 12, Jan. 4, 2018. He was offered employment, and
Kennedy Catholic requested and received the completed Act 168
Forms from Mr. Razzano and from the School District. 24 Pa.
Stat. Ann. § 1-111.l(b)(1)(iii) & (b)(2)(h). Mr.
Razzano completed the Act 168 Form, correctly answering
"No," to the above questions. Razzano. Dep. 38.
However, Mr. Sarandrea incorrectly completed the Act 168 Form
on behalf of the School District, by answering
"Yes" to both above Act 168 questions. Razzano Dep.
41; Sarandrea Dep. 76; Sarandrea Resp. to Pltfs.' First
Set Req. for Admissions, ¶¶ 4, 7; School District
Resp. to Pltfs.' First Set Req. for Admissions,
¶¶ 4, 7. The School District's Act 168 Form, as
completed by Mr. Sarandrea, was submitted to Kennedy Catholic
on March 9, 2017. Sarandrea Resp. to Pltfs.' First Set
Req. for Admissions, ¶ 9.
regard to the Act 168 Form questions, Mr. Sarandrea testified
Q. [D]id you understand that for Act 168 purposes, including
for this form that you were asked to fill out, that the term
sexual misconduct meant an act directed toward or with a
child or student?
Q. Did you understand that for purposes of Act 168 and this
form, the term abuse meant conduct directed toward a child or
A. I did.
Dep. 74. Regarding allegations involving Mr. Razzano, Mr.
Sarandrea testified as follows:
Q. . . . [Y]ou knew that Mr. Razzano had never been accused
of any misconduct involving a child or student?
A. That's correct.
Q. And he had never been accused of any sort of abuse or any
other misconduct involving a child or student regardless of
Dep. 66. Mr. Sarandrea also testified that he understood that
"Robert Razzano had never committed any act of
misconduct of any kind nor any abuse toward a child or
student," and that Mr. Razzano had "never been
alleged to have done so." Sarandrea Dep. 74-75. Mr.
Sarandrea's responses to these deposition questions
confirm that his Act 168 Form submission to Kennedy Catholic
was a false official report. The submitted form conveyed that
Mr. Razzano was either investigated for or was no longer
employed because of allegations of "abuse" and/or
"sexual misconduct" involving a student or
child. Sarandrea Resp. to Pltfs.' First Set
Req. for Admissions, ¶¶ 5, 8; School District Resp.
to Pltfs.' First Set Req. for Admissions, ¶¶ 5,
Razzano learned of Mr. Sarandrea's false Act 168
responses through his telephone call with Kennedy
Catholic's Principal, William Lyon. Razzano Dep. 40-41;
Lyon Dep. 18. Mr. Lyon told Mr. Razzano that the Act 168 Form
completed by Mr. Sarandrea was "very bad," and that
as a result of the "Yes" responses, "there
were some problems." Razzano Dep. 41; Lyons Dep. 16.
Kennedy Catholic declined to employ Mr. Razzano because of
Mr. Sarandrea's "Yes" responses on the Act 168
Form. Lyon Dep. 16.
Razzano's attorney contacted the School District to
rectify the incorrect responses on the Act 168 Form. Lyon
Dep. 18; Sarandrea Dep. 84, 87. Thereafter, Mr. Sarandrea
changed his "Yes" responses to "No," and
submitted a corrected Act 168 Form to Kennedy Catholic on
July 6, 2017. Sarandrea Dep. 84, 87-89; Razzano Dep. 52, 54;
Lyon Dep. 5, 16. After receiving the revised Act 168 Form,
Kennedy Catholic placed Mr. Razzano on the substitute teacher
list on July 7, 2017. Lyon Dep. 10. Placement on Kennedy
Catholic's substitute list does not guarantee substitute
assignments, and Mr. Razzano was never called to substitute
teach for Kennedy Catholic. Lyon Dep. 17; Razzano Dep. 52.
March 2017, Mr. Razzano was also offered a ninth-grade
football assistant coaching position at Seneca Valley.
Razzano Dep. 54. At the time of the offer, Mr. Razzano was
aware that Mr. Sarandrea had recently submitted the false Act
168 Form to Kennedy Catholic. He also knew that under
Pennsylvania law in order to proceed with the hiring process,
Seneca Valley would have to request the School District to
provide it with a completed Act 168 Form. At that time, Mr.
Razzano believed an Act 168 Form would be incorrectly
completed and submitted by Mr. Sarandrea. Mr. Razzano
believed that a false form would effectively bar his
employment at Seneca Valley. Razzano Dep. 54. Accordingly,
Mr. Razzano chose not to accept the Seneca Valley position at
that time; he did not request the School District to submit
an Act 168 Form to Seneca Valley. After Mr. Sarandrea and the