Upper St. Clair: Could the School Have Prevented Rape?

School districts have a list of policies that are to be followed in the case that something happens that endangers one or more students, teachers, or faculty members. These policies range in degree from detentions, to in and out of school suspensions, through a student no longer being permitted to attend the school district.

Upper St. Clair School District in Pennsylvania is facing a thirty-five page lawsuit naming the district as well as eight administrators and teachers at the high school. The lawsuit was filed when the school failed to respond properly to the reports of assault and harassment made by a female student (pseudonym Jane Doe) against a fourteen year old male student.

From the information given, it is understood that prior to the assaults the two students had been friends and classmates in an emotional support program that is part of the school’s special education classes.

When the first assault took place, the student talked to a teacher about what had happened – the teacher allegedly didn’t take any action. Later, the student again went to the teacher to report an assault and the teacher contacted the school’s intervention specialist for assistance. The teacher and intervention specialist (Esther Haguel) decided to suspend the student – in school suspension – and to have him write Jane a letter of apology.

Later in January when Ms. Haguel began to have some worries about Jane’s safety, she requested being allowed to escort her to the bus at the end of the day – a request that the principal of the school denied.

Friday February First, according to the complaint, another student was raped, the accused student apparently leaving what police believe to be a “trophy” of his act in the stairwell that remained through the weekend. Monday a third girl is was taken to the same stairwell and raped, and thirty minutes later Jane was taken from the girl’s bathroom to the stairwell and raped.

It boggles my mind to think that a school district could have ignored policy when generally schools are so very policy driven. Many schools have turned to a zero tolerance policy – meaning that if students fight they will be automatically given out of school suspension for three days and possibly face charges. The same policy is held for harassment. It doesn’t seem to make any sense that a student assaulting another student would be given an in school suspension rather than out of school.

Aside from the school policies that are in place – which in this case seem to have been dismissed without reason – if the teacher was so concerned for the safety of this student why didn’t she take the information to the principal when the problems began?She waited almost a month with more than one complaint to speak with the principal about her concerns for this student’s safety. I understand that cameras can miss areas of schools, but if someone can see the cameras and there was film of Jane being taken from the girls restroom to the stairway before being out of camera view – why was nobody watching the computer or even patrolling the hallways to be sure all students are in their classrooms?

Why is it that an intervention specialist – specially trained for the job and her work in the district – would only have had the male student write a letter of apology? When for so many schools the penalty for fighting is a definite three days out of school, it seems odd that a student could receive in school suspension for something like this.

I am also left wondering about this principal and how he is supposed to be in charge of the education and most importantly the safety of the students and faculty in his building. He wouldn’t even allow a teacher to walk a student to her bus when she’d reported assault by another student.

Even more – the school district has been quoted saying that they followed the policies of their school district. The lawyer believes, however, that had the policies been followed and the police alerted from the beginning, the rape almost a month later could have been prevented. Now I can’t help but to hope that the school and other schools have learned from this and of course that the girls are receiving the help that they need in healing.


Wow...That's all I can really say to that.

For a long time I went to a large school and after about a month I learned something that wasn't really fair but it was true. Big schools don't care. Unless you are dying or threatening to kill someone they don't really care. Especially if they come up with the genius idea of ISS and a letter for an asaulter...The schools need to learn to ENFORCE what they teach rather than keeping their stupid lax policies, but it's not gonna change anytime soon.

big schools don't care? little ones don't either. my brother got beat up almost every day . i was so nervous i was pulling my hair out, nauseous, and crying every day before i got on the bus. i was never sexually assaulted, but i heard one girl got goosed, turned around and punched him. guess what? she was suspended. the school is lundar school.####hole of Manitoba.i think we have 800 students total. that's all grades. we have been homeschooling for the last four years. i honestly can't remember most of school.every one said that we should be in school cause it would be healthier for us. this year we've had 2 lock down and three students got suspended for smoking pot at the recess at the school. some still say we should go back.

Hi home schooler, I'm sorry to hear that you had such horrible experiences at school and I'm glad you've found a positive learning environment that works well for you. However, I think it's important to remember that every school is different and it'd be unfair to make sweeping statements or generalizations about every single school in Manitoba, in Canada or on the entire planet, just as it's unfair for these people to have said what they did about how home schooling is inherently detrimental. It really all depends on the individual student, school and/or learning situation, and there are always pros and cons; however, it ultimately comes down to doing what's right for you. I also recommend speaking up and taking a stand to help increase that understanding and make things better for others: http://www.scarleteen.com/article/politics/activism_101 Good luck!

Given what has been reported by the news, it seems the parents are correct in suing the school district. It sends a warning to all school districts that they must respond appropriately to crimes committed on their property and while they are responsible for the safety of these minors. Someone must take responsibility for what occurred.

I attended this school several years ago and there really weren't many problems at this school. I remember one girl stole $50 from a big box store and she was caught. I don't think the school personnel had much experience dealing with criminal behavior. But, we have all learned lessons from the Catholic church priest scandals and that is that organizations should not handle criminal matters on their own. These matters are to be reported to the police who should know how to handle these matters. However, the Upper St. Clair police department may have never handled something as serious as rape, in which case, it could consult with Pittsburgh police or a police department that has dealt with rape cases.

I had a similar but less serious case a few years back where my daughter was tricked into going down a school slide by a child who had just created a puddle of pee at the bottom of the slide. I called our police and was told they were too busy to handle the situation. When I said I'd follow the child home and talk to his parents myself, the police suddenly had the time to show up. Rather than being charged with something serious like assault, the child was charged with peeing in public, obviously an inappropriate charge. He did have to clean the slide and he had to go to court. The school lost $22,500 dollars in state aid, because I didn't send my daughter to that school for 4 1/2 years.

Schools need to get their act together. Two assaults is a sign of serious trouble ahead, never mind the fact that St Clair didnt according to policy.

That being said, in the case of the person above, the differance between urinating in public and assault is usually rather large, so if the child is under a certain age not trying to force a serious criminal charge might be the better way to go. Things like rape go too far for sure, but children are known for playing pranks.