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Federal Court Tosses Sexual Harassment Suit Against Former Bridge Street Middle School Principal Joe Kolb

WHEELING — A sexual harassment suit filed by three former Bridge Street Middle School teachers against former principal Joe Kolb and involving the Ohio County Board of Education has been thrown out of federal court.

U.S. District Judge Frederick P. Stamp on Friday issued an order stating civil action against the board of education, Superintendent Kim Miller and Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones should “be dismissed and stricken from the active order” of the federal court.

The civil suit initially was filed in Ohio County Circuit Court on Dec. 21, 2018, by teachers Lindsay Ammirante, Autumn Troullos and Rachel Miller. In addition to claims against Kolb, it also accused the board, Miller and Jones of being “deliberately indifferent in responding to a ‘sexual predator,'” and failing to properly investigate harassment claims against Kolb. The case was moved to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia on Feb. 1.

Stamp’s order on Friday states the court previously dismissed Kolb from the case. That order states the teachers “failed to sufficiently plead their claims against Kolb,” Stamp said. Kolb resigned his position as principal on May 17.

The school board, Miller and Jones asked to be removed from the case based on the court’s prior finding of no evidence against Kolb. Stamp’s order on Friday granted that request.

Attorney Brent Wear of the Fitzsimmons Law Firm in Wheeling represented Miller and Jones in the case. He said the lawsuit unfairly portrayed the administrators as not having investigated the complaints against Kolb.

“The judge found the teachers didn’t have a complaint against Mr. Kolb, and Dr. Miller and Mr. Jones did take the accusations seriously and did investigate,” Wear said.

He provided a joint statement from Miller and Jones.

“We are pleased to learn that the lawsuit filed by three Ohio County school employees was dismissed and thrown out of court today, thereby vindicating our response and investigation into the personnel matters raised by these employees. It is our goal to provide a healthy and safe work environment for all of our wonderful teachers, staff and service personnel. We take complaints seriously and address them fairly and objectively. The ruling by the Court dismissing this case validates that we and the Ohio County Board of Education conducted a proper and fair investigation into the complaints made and our response was appropriate. We thank everyone for patiently awaiting this ruling and further thank everyone for their support.”

Attorneys representing the teachers and Kolb couldn’t be reached for comment late Friday afternoon.

According to the initial lawsuit, Troullos was forced to take a leave of absence during the 2018-19 school year because of the alleged harassment, and Ammirante has since transferred to another school. Miller resigned her position as teacher at Bridge Street Middle School at the end of the last school year.

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