Get our newsletters

Central Bucks’ probe of LGBTQ+ student treatment finds few issues


After a months-long investigation, a law firm hired by the Central Bucks School District found no evidence of systemic mistreatment of LGBTQ+ students and a responsive staff should bullying occur.

The 147-page report, released April 20 during a special school board meeting, said accusations of a “hostile” environment for LGBTQ students in Central Bucks schools are unwarranted. The claims of bullying were lodged with the ACLU of Pennsylvania and are currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

For its part, the ACLU slammed the district-funded probe on Twitter after it was released and called its conclusions “worthless.”

Michael Rinaldi was the lead attorney conducting the investigation and he presented its findings April 20 in a nearly three-hour presentation.

“In this report you will see actual sourced documents and contemporaneous communication,” he said.

Rinaldi and his partner Bill McSwain are with the Philadelphia-based firm of Duane Morris. Both are former federal prosecutors.

“The district’s only instruction to us was to investigate and to document the facts,” Rinaldi said. The school district did not limit the investigation in any way, he asserted.

At the district’s direction, the investigation focused on the four complaints lodged against CBSD with the Office for Civil Rights.

They included: the district’s suspension of Lenape Middle School teacher Andrew Burgess and the claim he was suspended for filing a complaint with the OCR. Burgess has since filed a lawsuit against the school district alleging his suspension was retaliatory.

On this matter, Rinaldi said, it was Burgess who violated school policy. “The evidence and circumstances suggest that Mr. Burgess believed that, if he brought to light supposed widespread unaddressed bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students and convinced a federal agency to investigate such matters, the school board would cave to the inevitable criticism and bad press.”

By putting his political beliefs above students’ concerns and not reporting their experiences to school officials, Burgess failed in his responsibilities as a teacher, said Rinaldi, who called for him to be suspended without pay. E-mails showed Burgess wanted at least one student to file a complaint with OCR, the attorney said.

Another matter investigated by the district were allegations it violated laws against sex discrimination and retaliation when it allegedly prevented students at Lenape to reenter the school after they walked out in protest over Burgess’ May 6, 2022 suspension.

Here, Rinaldi said, he found no evidence to support that complaint. While there may have been confusion about what door students could use, the lawyer said the school did not intentionally keep kids who protested out.

However, one parent, Doylestown Township Supervisor Jen Herring, said at the time her seventh-grade daughter was not allowed to get back into the school and had to cross the street to get to the YMCA to use a bathroom. Herring was not interviewed during the law firm’s investigation, according to another news organization.

“The Lenape administration acted appropriately in maintaining well-established school safety protocols, none of which constitutes illegal discrimination or retaliation,” said Rinaldi.

A complaint that alleges the school district does not sufficiently address complaints of bullying and harassment against LGBTQ students is unfounded, Rinaldi said. When asked for specific examples of such lapses, the staff that attorneys interviewed could not cite one instance, according to Rinaldi’s findings.

“Not unlike most (or all) school districts, some bullying occurs at Central Bucks School District,” the investigation stated. “We found however, that such incidents are not widespread and that they were promptly addressed by school district personnel.”

In response, the ACLU of Pennsylvania derided the district’s “sham investigation,” saying Central Bucks hired a law firm whose attorneys “have an obvious bias against the trans and non-binary students who lodged the complaint” and those investigators failed to interview key staff members with insights into bullying at Central Bucks.

Students and parents’ complaints of bullying and harassment at several school board meetings were also not included in Rinaldi’s presentation.

“This was a dishonest investigation from the beginning,” the ACLU tweeted. “The board majority set it up to defend the status quo and that’s exactly what the report does.”

At a May 2022 board meeting, district superintendent Abram Lucabaugh said he found conversations he had with LGBTQ students compelling.

“For them,” the superintendent said, at the time, “a successful day is getting through the day and not being harassed, not being outed by someone. A successful day is getting through the hallway without somebody sending a slur their way or trying to marginalize them. A really successful day, ironically, would be if a student hurled an insult or slur their way, and an adult stepped up and said, ‘No, we’re not going to do that.’”

The investigation, estimated to have cost the school district $1 million, also concluded that none of the policies recently adopted by the board are discriminatory against LGBTQ students or employees.

“Rather, these are reasonable policy choices, made by the superintendent and the board of school directors who are empowered by state law to make such decisions, and supported by well-established legal precedent,” the investigation determined.

To view the legal team’s full report, visit

Join our readers whose generous donations are making it possible for you to read our news coverage. Help keep local journalism alive and our community strong. Donate today.