Schools Ignore Grand Jury’s Warning To Let Police Investigate Sex Cases

A grand jury in Harrisburg declared 17 months ago that school administrators are singularly unqualified to investigate alleged sexual abuse, but the practice continues.

“School district administrators lack training needed to conduct a meaningful investigation into whether or not physical or sexual abuse has occurred,” according to a Dauphin County grand jury’s investigation of Susquehanna Township School District in January 2014.

The grand jury said administrators lack access to investigative resources such as search warrants, court orders, wiretaps or subpoenas and lack training in the questioning of victims, witnesses and suspects.

“Very often, a preliminary investigation will tip off a suspect and foreclose the availability of the investigative resources described above even once the police become involved,” the panel concluded.

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Plum School Board Member Says He Warned Administrators Of Inappropriate Contact

Former Plum school board member Joseph Tommarello said he told the school superintendent three years ago about inappropriate contact between English teacher Joseph Ruggieri and student – and told him again last year.

Superintendent Timothy Glasspool told him, “This would not be the first time he will have had to have a conversation with Mr. Ruggieri about inappropriate contact with students,” Tommarello said.

When he heard nothing back, Tommarello said he believed it meant there was nothing to be found.

“It’s disgusting to think that a teacher has some kind of relationship like this with a student and nothing gets done about it,” Tommarello said in an interview with the Tribune-Review Monday.

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Ringgold High School Latest To Be Rocked By Sex Scandal

A trail of months-old text messages, followed by a police investigation that discovers an inappropriate relationship between an educator and a student: It’s a story line that’s becoming all too familiar.

At Plum High School, police have charged two teachers with crimes involving students. At Norwin High School, an investigation is ongoing after what were described as inappropriate text messages were found between a teacher and a student.

It unfolded again Thursday in the Ringgold School District, where police announced they had filed charges against a former guidance counselor for allegedly having sex with a high school football player.

Rostraver police said Lianne Danko, 33, of Rostraver, was charged with three counts of institutional sexual assault.

Read more:

http://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2015/05/21/Police-to-file-charges-against-Ringgold-guidance-counselor/stories/201505210175

Plum Seniors Move On After Tumultuous Year

Rain clouds and an ongoing criminal investigation could not dampen the spirits of 309 seniors who graduated from Plum High School on Friday night.

“It’s over,” senior class president Michael Bell said to a gymnasium audience brimming with nervous excitement. “We did it.”

The ceremony marked the end of a school year in which three teachers were charged criminally, two with sex crimes involving students, and other staff members were stuck under the cloud of a grand jury investigation into whether they knew about inappropriate relationships and did nothing.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/8480032-74/plum-students-district#ixzz3cIB2i3Vz
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Plum Teacher Held For Trial On Charges Of Witness Intimidation

A judge on Wednesday upheld intimidation charges against a Plum high school teacher amid tearful testimony from the alleged victim.

Drew Zoldak, a science teacher, is charged with two counts of witness intimidation for allegedly pointing out a victim in an ongoing student sex abuse investigation involving another Plum teacher.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/8447884-74/teacher-sex-intimidation#ixzz3bLzDQzwH
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Grand Jury Investigating Plum Sex Scandal Involving Possibly 8 Students

An Allegheny County grand jury is investigating whether teachers at Plum High School abused as many as eight female students over as many as eight years and that school officials kept it quiet, according to a sealed search warrant executed Tuesday.

The warrant — signed Monday by Common Pleas Judge Jill E. Rangos, who supervises the grand jury — sought records that could show whether district officials knew about inappropriate contact between staff and students.

The warrant indicates that a grand jury is investigating whether criminal charges should be filed against school officials for failing to report known sexual abuse.

Among the violations under consideration are tampering with records, fabricating evidence, obstructing the administration of law, failure to report abuse and intimidation, retaliation or obstruction in a child abuse case, according to the warrant.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/8399593-74/ruggieri-hearing-charges#ixzz3ahY6QGzu
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Plum High School Teacher Hires Attorney Who Also Represents Jerry Sandusky

A Plum High School teacher has hired an attorney who also represents Jerry Sandusky.

Drew Zoldak, 40, of New Kensington, has hired Butler county defense attorney Alexander H. Lindsay Jr. to defend him against charges of witness intimidation.

Lindsay also represents Sandusky in the former Penn State assistant football coach’s post conviction relief act appeal of his conviction for molesting young boys.

Zoldak is accused of identifying a girl in his class as one who allegedly had sex with Joseph Ruggieri, 40, of Plum, an English teacher at the school charged with institutional sexual assault, corruption of minors and witness intimidation.

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Plum Officials: District Won’t Inhibit ‘Constitutionally Protected Speech’

Plum Borough School District administrators and borough police walked back assertions they made last week suggesting students could be arrested for “irresponsible” talk or social media postings about investigations into teacher sex abuse allegations.

“The district will not prevent or inhibit any individuals from engaging in constitutionally protected speech,” said Superintendent Timothy Glasspool in a letter the district released Monday. Glasspool did not respond to requests for comment.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said the district’s statement was “more cryptic than we would have liked,” but the group said it accepted the clarification of the issue, according to ACLU-PA legal director Witold Walczak.

The ACLU became involved when local police and high school administrators held an assembly and cautioned students against discussing the investigation publicly, telling them they could be arrested for “irresponsible” and “immature” talk, tweets, texts, emails, or posts to Facebook.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/8250483-74/students-police-protest#ixzz3YY08sJbH
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Third Plum High School Teacher Charged In Connection With Student-Sex Case

Plum police on Wednesday filed witness intimidation charges against a Plum high school forensic science teacher.

Drew Zoldak, 40, of New Kensington, was charged with two misdemeanor counts of intimidation of a witness or victim.

Zoldak was arraigned just after 11:30 a.m. in front of Magisterial District Judge Linda Zucco.

According to the criminal complaint, after investigators from the Allegheny District Attorney’s office interviewed Zoldak, he apologized to his class for being absent from class and singled out as the cause a victim one of the other Plum teachers is accused of having sex with. According to the complaint, Zoldak then called the victim to the front of the class and asked her if she would be okay with the following week’s topic: sexual assault.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/8216989-74/charges-assault-held#ixzz3Y3kPZQEK
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