Concerns raised over Brashear discipline

Judge asks district attorney to investigate shooting, fight that may have triggered it

November 15, 2013 11:31 PM
By Liz Navratil / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Allegheny County district attorney said Friday that he will look into concerns raised by a South Hills district judge who questioned whether Pittsburgh Public Schools properly respond to crimes that occur in its buildings.

District Judge James A. Motznik said Friday he is concerned because he feels he is hearing fewer cases from Brashear High School -- near which three students were shot Wednesday. He asked District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. to investigate both the shooting and an Oct. 18 fight that officials say might have triggered it.

Anjohnito Willet, 16, has been charged as an adult with attempted homicide and numerous other crimes after Pittsburgh police said he opened fire on three students -- two of whom were charged in juvenile court after school police said they jumped Anjohnito near some lockers while a third teen watched.

Judge expresses concerns about school police

District Judge James A. Motznik says the Brashear High School shooting incident this week has raised concerns about the role of school police. (Video by Darrell Sapp; 11/15/2013)

Robert "Eugene" Minor was shot in the head, and DaJour Jones, 15, was shot in the elbow and ankle. A third student, Andrew Umphrey, 17, was also shot in the head. Andrew was not involved in the prior fight.

Superintendent Linda Lane on Friday defended the district's handling of the October fight and attempted robbery.

Ms. Lane said in a statement that Robert, DaJour and a teen not injured in the shooting had been charged in juvenile court with simple assault, robbery, disorderly conduct and conspiracy. She said Anjohnito did not cooperate with the investigation so school police filed charges using witness statements and surveillance video. That case is still pending.

DA spokesman Mike Manko said in a statement: "The District Attorney assured the Judge that our office will reach out and talk with individuals both in the school district and the school police department. To call our involvement an investigation at this time would be premature and inappropriate."

Judge Motznik said his court has seen fewer disorderly conduct cases from Brashear High School since the district adopted a new policy that requires school police officers to receive approval from the school police chief before issuing a citation.

Ms. Lane said the district, in conjunction with the Education Law Center, revised its student code of conduct to more closely match Pennsylvania law.

Before that, she said, students who were caught using cell phones, dressing out of uniform or cutting class would have been cited with disorderly conduct. Under the new code, they would not be cited and required to appear before a district judge. Instead, they would be accused of disrupting the school and would be disciplined in the school system.