liberty high school building Liberty High School in Bethlehem

A federal judge is allowing a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the Bethlehem Area School District to move forward.

The mother of a 16-year-old Liberty High School student, who collapsed in class in 2010 and died shortly after at the hospital, sued in December claiming if school district officials had acted faster her son would be alive.

The Lehigh County Coroner’s Office determined Juanya Spady, 16, of the 200 block of West Lehigh Street in Bethlehem, died of natural causes from a seizure disorder but attorneys representing his mother, Mica D. Spady, disagree.

Today in federal court in Philadelphia, Judge Joel H. Slomsky denied the district’s motion to dismiss the suit. Slomsky said it’s rare for him to throw out a claim for damages this early without knowing any facts beyond what’s alleged in the plaintiff’s complaint.

Spady seeks a jury trial and at least $ 150,000 in damages for the loss of her son and her mental anguish. The suit asks for a court order to stop unlawful district practices that violated the boy’s civil rights.

The school district’s attorney, Paul G. Lees, declined to comment following the hearing, saying he never speaks about pending litigation.

Spady’s attorney, Joe Welsh, said he was pleased nothing in his case was thrown out.

“Hopefully, it brings Ms. Spady one step closer to closure,” Welsh said.

At this stage of the case, all well-pleaded facts in the complaint are taken as true, he said. He expects as the case progresses he’ll be able to prove the facts in his complaint and new facts will emerge that allow the suit to go before a jury.

The lawsuit says that although Juanya said he wasn’t up to it, his gym teacher told him to get into the pool to participate in swim class. Once in the water, Juanya struggled to stay afloat and was seen thrashing, the suit says.

It says he inhaled pool water and chemicals and classmates had to help him out of the pool. During his next class about 10:30 a.m., Juanya collapsed, his breathing was labored and a pink frothy liquid came out of his mouth, according to the suit.

The lawsuit says district staff waited about 20 minutes to call for an ambulance amid confusion about what steps to take and the location of life-saving equipment. The suit claims Spady could have been saved if he reached the hospital sooner.

The district argues in its motion to dismiss that the suit doesn’t meet the legal burden for several reasons. It notes that the gym teacher, Carlton Rodgers, didn’t know of any substantial risk to asking Juanya to try to participate in class nor did he ignore such a risk.

Rodger’s actions cannot be connected to Juanya’s seizure several hours after his swim class, court documents say.

The response also says school nurses and his English teacher did not ignore his condition. They called 911 and gave him medical care.

Welsh has 10 days to file an amended complaint that fleshes out the issues per Slomsky’s direction. Slomsky told Lees he would never tell someone not to file another motion to dismiss, but he hinted it may be unnecessary.

“I think I’ve covered the issues here satisfactorily,” Slomsky said.