Former Penn State marching band member claims sexual, gender-based harassment by coach in lawsuit

Former Penn State marching band member claims sexual, gender-based harassment by coach in lawsuit

Former Penn State Nittany Lions majorette Kaitlyn Wassel filed a lawsuit against the university on claims of sexual and gender-based harassment as a member of the Blue Band. 

According to PennLive.com, Wassel filed the suit Wednesday in U.S. Middle District Court against Penn State, where she claims the university failed to protect her from majorette coach Heather Bean from 2018 through 2022.

Wassell is seeking “unspecified damages for violations of Title IX and the equal protection clause of the Constitution,” according to PennLive.com. She needs mental health treatment and medication, while suffering from panic attacks to this day from her alleged abuse. 

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Penn State Nittany Lions marching band takes the field before a college football game against the Michigan Wolverines on November 11, 2023, at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania.  (Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

A Penn State spokesperson told Fox News Digital that the university generally does not comment on pending litigation. 

Bean, who resigned from her position in 2022 after being the head majorette coach since 1994 at Penn State, is claimed to have had gender-based misconduct against Wassel, and it was not a secret to the rest of the marching band. 

Wassel says that Bean’s treatment of her was known by Blue Band director Gregory Drane, as well as university administrators. But Drane and the administrators allegedly ignored Wassel when approached about the situation. 

Wassel broke down numerous instances where she was harassed, including in 2018 when the semester began with alleged “fat-shaming” because of her weight. She said that she had been required to wear a Blue Band uniform that was too small on purpose. 

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Bean also did not allow Wassel to trade uniforms with another teammate, nor have it altered, for her entire four years in the program. 

Bean allegedly told Wassel that she had to lose weight to fit in the uniform, which resulted in an eating disorder during her freshman year in 2018. Wassel says the eating disorder continued throughout her years at Penn State. 

trumpet player on Penn State's Blue Band

Members of the Penn State Nittany Lions marching band perform prior to the 2023 Rose Bowl Game against the Utah Utes at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 2, 2023, in Pasadena, California. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Wassel went on to name other instances throughout her tenure at Penn State, which include telling Bean that she had been sexually assaulted in 2018 (and it wasn’t reported), Bean blaming her for a lice infection that had broken out within the team, calling her “such a whore,” and threatening to kick her off the team on multiple occasions if she were to report Bean to the university. 

The harassment against Wassel led to her attempting suicide in May 2021. She was unsuccessful and needed to be hospitalized for multiple days, the lawsuit claims. Wassel’s parents allegedly told Bean that her abuse had been the reason behind the suicide attempt. 

Once Wassel she had graduated from Penn State, she filed a complaint against Bean. She did not receive an answer on the complaint, but joined others who had done the same. 

A joint affirmative action/human resources investigation into Bean came about once Wassel joined the group, and investigators would find that Bean violated university policy. However, they did not find enough evidence to determine sexual discrimination or harassment based on the claims. 

Wassel’s lawsuit has claims from four other twirlers whom Bean allegedly mistreated as well. 

Penn State Blue Band general view

Penn State Nittany Lions marching band takes the field before a college football game against the Michigan Wolverines on November 11, 2023, at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania.  (Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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The investigation noted that Bean could not be disciplined by the university because she resigned in 2022. 

Scott Thompson is a sports writer for Fox News Digital.

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