Plum parent sues school district claiming leaders retaliated against him for hybrid learning comments

PLUM, Pa. — A local father is suing the Plum Borough School District and its solicitor, claiming they conspired to retaliate against him following comments made during a public board meeting.

“I was the squeaky wheel. I’m not afraid to tell somebody what they’re doing wrong, especially when it involves my children,” said Nathan O’Leath.

O’Leath told Channel 11 that he attended a school board “Action Meeting” on January 26, and was among numerous parents to speak out in opposition of the district’s hybrid learning model. In a video publicly uploaded by the district, parents are heard expressing their desire for kids to return for in-person education.

O’Leath’s comments, however, are apparently cut from the upload.

“It was a passionate speech,” he said.

According to O’Leath, he at one point referenced another child, whose mom had previously spoken about the challenges of at-home learning.

“I stood up, and I had an open dialogue. I said ‘young lady, this happening to you, you suffering, it’s not your fault. It’s their fault,’ and I pointed to the school board,” O’Leath recounted to Channel 11.

In his lawsuit, O’Leath claims he later received intel that school leaders then held a private meeting, in which they plotted to retaliate against him.

The suit claims that school leaders attempted to have criminal charges filed against him for harassment, on behalf of the child he referenced during his public comment. The suit claims that a police officer later visited that child’s parent, but that the parent declined to press charges.

The suit further alleges that O’Leath was banned from school properties. Channel 11 obtained an apparent copy of the “defiant trespass notice” he was given, which claims it was sent due to his “actions of accosting a child” during the public meeting.

“These are slanderous, they are horrible statements to be made by public officials in response to a First Amendment right,” said Jim Cooney, one of O’Leath’s attorneys. Attorney Sy Lampl added that the alleged actions are “heinous.”

The situation prompted O’Leath to pull his two children from the district, and instead send them to a private school.

Channel 11 reached out to the school district and the solicitor for comment.

A statement from Superintendent Brendan Hyland reads in part “The suit arises out of conduct by Mr. O’Leath at a public meeting of the School Board.  The Board found Mr. O’Leath’s conduct to be disturbing and responded appropriately, because Mr. O’Leath directed comments towards a child in the audience, instead of towards the Board, which caused the child to become visibly emotionally distraught. The Board and its Solicitor therefore view the claims made by Mr. O’Leath as both baseless and frivolous, and such claims shall be vigorously defended.”

But O’Leath says that’s a mischaracterization, and that his family and the child’s family are on friendly terms, and walked to their cars with one another upon leaving the January 26 meeting.

He adds, “I guess the truth’s in the video, isn’t it?”

Channel 11 asked the Superintendent to send us the removed portion of video featuring O’Leath’s comments, in the event that the video still exists. We have not received a reply.