Group says Pine-Richland not taking claims of sex assault seriously at board meeting

ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. — Monday night’s board meeting in Pine-Richland was similar to the one earlier this month. Several parents and a former student spoke publicly stating they are not satisfied with the answers the district is giving regarding sex assault claims.

Protect Our Students in Pine and Richland Now, or PROSPR Now, said it has received multiple reports from families in the district that suggest a pattern of behavior by school officials.

“That trivializes sexual assault, intimidates victims from coming forward and retaliates against them if they do,” said PROSPR Now president Tom Baxter.

A former student told the board she was raped.

“I was scared during the whole thing. I couldn’t move or yell when someone came to the door. I was just scared,” Ana Baxter said.

She said she went to police and the hospital but the district never took her claims seriously.

“The district didn’t reply adequately to her allegations then tried to kick her out of the district,” said Baxter.

PROSPR Now is asking for any Pine-Richland family who may have similar complaints or concerns to come forward.

On Monday, the school district issued a second response to the allegations:

“We understand that Prospr Now intends to host a rally this evening, in advance of the Pine-Richland School District’s public School Board Meeting. The organization is seeking to collect “any complaint of sexual or racial harassment, sexual misconduct, bullying, hazing, violence, intimidation, or any other student safety issue” where “you were not satisfied with the district’s response”  according to its website. Prospr Now is engaged in activities, such as rallies and media advertisements, to bring attention to these topics.

We believe so strongly in our mission to focus on learning for every student every day. A positive culture serves as the foundation for learning. The responsibility and opportunity to support every student is our motivation to lead and govern at the district and building levels. Pine-Richland is a close-knit community and the District, Board and Administration believe that our students and families are the lifeblood of that community and that every individual matters. We encourage those who have a concern to report through to the proper authorities. No one who believes they have been victimized in any way should go unheard.

The District, Board and Administration stand with victims of sexual assault, consider sexual assaults seriously and urge any victims of such assaults to report those incidents through the proper channels so that all claims may be investigated as the law requires. The District and Board strive for transparency on the reporting channels available to victims and potential victims by continuing to publicize and highlight protocols such as the Northern Regional Police Department’s TIPS line, the state-developed Safe2Say anonymous reporting tool and the District’s website, where the process for making a Title IX Complaint is set forth.

With regard to a recent, specific allegation, this situation has been thoroughly investigated by three separate parties, specifically, by the Northern Regional Police Department, School District administrators and an independent investigator. Any contention that the School District has discouraged, failed to act upon or engaged in retaliation for this or any other report of sexual assault simply is untrue. In addition to its own investigations, because the allegations involved potential criminal conduct, the District immediately and appropriately referred this matter to the Northern Regional Police Department for investigation. PRSD cooperated and collaborated with the NRPD throughout its investigation. PRSD understands that the District Attorney’s office was consulted in this matter by the police. The District was advised by NRPD that no criminal charges were filed.  As it was widely reported, NRPD has confirmed that there are no active investigations. The District fully cooperated with all relevant agencies, including law enforcement.

We strive to create a positive school culture for students, parents and staff. We are intentional and focused on continuous improvement. We have refined and continue to review our policies and practices. We do this because of our commitment to a safe and positive environment.”