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Following Claims Of Mishandled Sexual Assault Investigations, Pine-Richland Parents Protest

Julia Zenkevich
90.5 WESA
Members of the parent group Protect Our Students In Pine Richland Now held a rally outside of Pine-Richland high school Monday night ahead of a school board meeting.

Just two weeks after Pine-Richland school district officials were accused of not properly investigating sexual assault allegations, concerned parents protested outside the high school ahead of a Monday night school board meeting.

“Now the district has to respond to complaints of harassment,” parent Tom Baxter said. “They can’t just individually bully each family because we have power when we’re together.”

Baxter, whose daughter is a former Pine-Richland student and recently alleged that district officials mishandled her own report of sexual assault, alleged on Monday that board members knew about an inappropriate sexual relationship between a coach and an underage student for two months before the coach was arrested. Baxter that the incident is part of a pattern of mishandling harassment and sexual assault allegations in the district.

“To the board of directors I ask, do you choose to personally stand with an institution that trivializes sexual assault and marginalizes its victims?” he said. “Or do you instead choose to convey your personal stance against sexual assault and support survivors?”

At Monday’s meeting, the school board president said board members did not know about the claims, and said they have reached out to the former board member who first brought the issue to Baxter’s attention. The school’s solicitor said that the district “vigorously investigates all allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment that it receives” and involves the appropriate authorities.

Baxter and his wife Jill co-founded Protect Our Students In Pine Richland Now. At a public meeting earlier this month, their daughter Ana Baxter told officials that when she was a sophomore she was raped on school property, and alleged that school officials did not properly conduct an investigation after she reported it.

The attorney for the school district, Emily Mueller, refuted claims made at the Aug. 3 meeting. “We strongly disagree with some of the statements made tonight regarding allegations of assault and discrimination," she said.

Parents are calling for district leadership, and 8 of the district’s 9 school board members to resign by the end of the month.

Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jzenkevich@wesa.fm.
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