WAYNESBURG – A high school special education teacher has settled a federal lawsuit against the Central Greene School District and the former high school principal whom she claimed coerced her into a sexual relationship.
The teacher, Danielle Golden of Dunbar, filed the lawsuit in July against the district and David Mason, alleging Mason engaged in “unwanted and unsolicited” sexual conduct with her at the school.
Though the district had knowledge of Mason’s past conduct, the suit alleged, it continued to allow him to supervise Golden and took no action regarding his conduct.
Mason was fired by the board in December 2015. At the time, school officials declined to state a reason for his dismissal.
Golden’s attorney, Samuel Cordes of Pittsburgh, said the case was resolved following negotiations with a court mediator. Online court documents indicate mediation was held Feb. 1; a document filed Feb. 16 states the case was settled.
“The lawsuit was resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties,” Cordes said Tuesday. The resolution does involve a monetary settlement, Cordes said, although he declined to reveal the amount.
It was unknown whether the settlement has been approved by the school board, and a copy of the agreement could not immediately be obtained.
Central Greene Superintendent Brian Uplinger declined to comment on the settlement Tuesday. Attorneys for Mason and the school district could not be reached for comment.
Golden, who was hired by the district in September 2013, claimed Mason initially would remove her from classroom assignments to discuss topics of a sexual nature, telling her about his sexual encounters and questioning her about her own sexual activity.
“Although Ms. Golden was uncomfortable with Principal Mason’s comments and questions, she felt it necessary to respond to Principal Mason, because she was a first-year teacher, without tenure, and afraid that she would lose her position if she refused Principal Mason’s advances,” the lawsuit stated.
Golden said she told Mason she did not want to continue these discussions and his conduct should stop, not only because he was her boss but also because he was married and a leader at his church. Mason persisted, the suit said, and he “demanded” Golden wear certain clothing or undergarments to work for his “enjoyment.”
In November 2013, Mason called her into his office as she was leaving for the day and they had a first sexual encounter, the suit said. Golden said she subsequently attempted to avoid Mason. However, Mason continued to arrange private meetings throughout the 2013-14 school year and the sexual encounters became more frequent, the suit said.
In January 2014, Golden met with administrators and her union representatives regarding Mason’s habit of removing her from her classroom. At one meeting, the special education director told Golden she knew how Mason acted with female teachers and he had a reputation for similar behavior in the past.
At a meeting in May 2014, Golden provided documentation to Uplinger indicating the dates she was involuntarily removed from class by Mason. Uplinger “indicated he want to fire Ms. Golden on the spot,” the suit stated. He was dissuaded, however, by union representatives. Golden later received a “performance plan” from Uplinger, while Mason received nothing, the suit said.
The union subsequently sent a letter to the district solicitor Kirk King outlining dates Golden was removed from class and noting nothing was done to stop Mason’s conduct. Throughout the 2014-15 school year, Mason continued to remove Golden from class on a near-daily basis to talk or engage in sexual relations, the suit said.
Mason, who was with the district for almost 15 years, was suspended Aug. 21, 2015. The board voted at a special meeting Dec. 5, 2015 to fire Mason.
A written statement issued later by the district said Mason was terminated for violating Section 1122 of the Pennsylvania School Code. The code lists numerous reasons for termination, including “immorality; incompetency; unsatisfactory teaching performance … intemperance; cruelty; persistent negligence in the performance of duties; willful neglect of duties,” among other causes.