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Gateway School Board suspends band director without pay after charges

MONROEVILLE, Pa. — On Tuesday, the Gateway School Board determined that sufficient evidence exists to suspend the district’s band director without pay.

Last week, Gateway High School band director James Hoeltje was charged with selling or furnishing alcohol to minors.

During Tuesday’s regularly scheduled Gateway school board meeting, the board approved a notice-of-dismissal resolution.

Although the employee wasn’t named specifically, the board said sufficient evidence exists to authorize the initiation of dismissal proceedings. The first step: Suspension without pay.

“We will get to the bottom of the issue with the employee,” said board president Jack Bova.

Last Monday, a note was sent to parents in the district, informing them that an investigation of a high school employee was underway and “Due to the nature of these disturbing charges, the employee will remain on suspension and the district will proceed with termination as dictated by PA School code.”

According to the district’s website, Hoeltje became band director in 2016.

Band camp, which was set to start last week, was postponed following the charges against Hoeltje.

A parent and member of the Band Boosters tearfully told the board on Tuesday how the band season has been impacted by the allegations.

“This member managed to bring alcohol on school property, but more than the victim has been hurt in this case. The actions of this one individual, he has taken away parts of the band season that cannot be replaced,” Donna Burns, Band Booster Vice President, said. “I hope the actions of the district prevent this predator from ever again being around children.”

Board president Bova apologized to Burns for the disruption.

“We are all together in this and will do anything we can to support your efforts in getting these kids caught up,” said Bova.

According to the complaint, an 18-year-old former Gateway student described to police several incidents involving Hoeltje that began back in January.

The victim stated that Hoeltje shared his family struggles with her and would refer to her as his best friend. The complaint stated that during a trip to Virginia, Hoeltje “molested” her while they both drank alcohol.

The teen said they began texting and Snapchatting in January 2022. According to her, a majority of communication was done over Snapchat. The complaint stated text messages, Snapchats and in-person conversations would sometimes be sexual in nature, where Hoeltje would talk about his sex life with his wife. The victim also said Hoeltje would often hug her or hold her hand when they were alone in his office.

According to the complaint, the victim told police that during a band trip to Virginia Beach at the end of April, she went to Hoeltje’s room, where he provided her with

two airplane bottles of vodka and whiskey, which she drank. The victim said she became dizzy and laid on the bed where Hoeltje then climbed on top of her and tried to kiss her multiple times, before she was able to “squirm” out from under him.

The criminal complaint states that Hoeltje had provided the teen with a bottle of vodka the day before prom.

The criminal complaint also states that Hoeltje admitted to purchasing alcohol for the teen at her request. He also acknowledged he probably crossed a line and shared too much about his personal life with her.

Hoeltje is not facing any sexual misconduct-related charges.

Hoeltje has a hearing before the board later this month. He is due to be back in court for his preliminary hearing in October.

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