Former principal known as “Pappy” sues Smithville School District for damages

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Dr. Rudy Papenfuhs

SMITHVILLE, Mo. — In October, Smithville High School accepted the resignation of its popular principal, Dr. Rudy Papenfuhs, after the School Board placed Dr. Papenfuhs on administrative leave, accusing him of having an inappropriate relationship with students.

Now, Dr. Papenfuhs is suing the Smithville School District and school board. The lawsuit, Rudy Papenfuhs v. Smithville RII School District et al was filed on June 19 in Jackson County, while Papenfuhs lives in Platte County and Smithville is in Clay County.

While Papenfus and his supporters say he was helping and mentoring students in need, the district said Papenfus’ relationship with students crossed the line.

He was accused of putting a student on his cell phone plan and car insurance plan.  He was accused of giving a student a prescription medication and also showing a student an explicit YouTube video.

Among the violations of district policy, district leaders accused Papenfuhs of:

  • Texting students between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Taking students to Chiefs games and Royals game
  • Adding a student to his cell phone plan and insurance policy
  • Making sexual comments and telling jokes that were sexual in nature to students
  • Administering a prescription medication to one student

In the lawsuit, Dr. Papenfuhs asks for a judgment against the defendants and to be awarded damages for his “lost job opportunities, loss of society of his peers, injuries to his reputation, mental anguish, emotional distress, and pain and suffering related to Dr. Papenfuhs being labeled as someone who engaged in sexually explicit conduct with children.” He asked for an excess of $25,000 for each of the damages.

The lawsuit claims that Smithville School Superintendent Todd Schuetz implied to the local media that there was “more to the story” and claimed Dr. Papenfuhs “frequently had inappropriate contact with students” that were sexually explicit in nature. Papenfuhs’ attorney claims none of the other defendants took action to stop Scheutz from making “slanderous and defamatory statements about Papenfuhs.”

Some of the allegations were investigated by the Missouri Department of Social Services, which determined on September 30 that the reports were unsubstantiated and closed the case against Dr. Papenfuhs.  Criminal charges were never filed against him.

Ty Hosmann, 17, says he received help from Dr. Papenfus at a time when Hosmann needed it most. He was facing drug and alcohol problems, and he decided to move into a friend’s home.

“I was wearing dirty clothes, my hair was dirty, I didn’t like showering,” Hosmann said.

Hosmann says his principal, Dr. Papenfuhs, was the only person to notice, and asked the teen to come to his office.

“The third question he asked me was, ‘what can I do to help you?'” Hosmann recalled. From that day on, Hosmann says his principal became a mentor in his life.

After Dr. Papenfuhs was placed on administrative leave, students staged an informal walk out and some of them decorated their cars and wore shirts with the slogan “Free Pappy”.

— Sherry Foley (@Sherry_Foley) September 25, 2014

Additionally at the beginning of June, the Missouri Attorney General requested more records regarding the school’s former principal. The school district said it wasn’t the first time the Attorney General put in a request for the records. The school district said the original request for the documents came in February of 2015, but because they wanted to respect the terms of their separation with former principal Rudy Papenfuhs they refused to comply.

The school district said Attorney General Chris Koster wants to review records related to the allegations, as well as records related to the former principal’s credentials.

“While the district has never had interest in pursuing the revocation of Dr. Papenfuhs’ credentials, this is a matter between the Attorney General, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Dr. Papenfuhs,” Smithville Superintendent Todd Schuetz said in a press release. “The district will comply with the subpoena with out objection to it on file, and beyond that, this dispute is one between Dr. Papenfush and the State. ”


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