Avonworth Elementary music teacher arrested on rape charges

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An Avonworth Elementary School music teacher has been placed on administrative leave after he was arrested Friday on charges that he sexually assaulted a relative.

Walter Street, 59, of Ben Avon was in the Allegheny County Jail on Wednesday in lieu of $200,000 bond. The former high school and middle school band teacher, who also was director of the marching band, is not permitted on school property, district spokeswoman Dana Hackley said Wednesday.

Allegations that Mr. Street raped the girl surfaced in 2009, when the then-17-year-old contacted the director of a Christian-based organization and said she was concerned that she might be pregnant with Mr. Street's child.

The director contacted Ohio Township police Cpl. Chris Simcoviak, who began an investigation. In interviews when another relative was present, though, the young woman recanted a statement detailing the abuse, which she told police started when she was 10 and occurred on and off for several years. Police had no corroborating evidence and no charges were filed then, the corporal wrote in a criminal complaint.

An attorney was not listed for Mr. Street in online court records.

Last month, Avonworth School District Superintendent Thomas Ralston was doing an exam of Mr. Street's school-owned laptop when he found a file referencing "an inappropriate relationship" with the relative, the corporal wrote.

The document, according to the complaint, was a letter addressed to the young woman. It contained such phrases as, "Letting my feelings show for someone that society says is a no-no," and, "I will try to keep my emotions and hands to myself."

The woman told police in a recent interview that her 2009 allegations were truthful and that Mr. Street hand-delivered that letter to her last fall.

Mr. Street has been charged with rape, sexual assault and related crimes. Township police would not answer specific questions about the case Wednesday, but said in a statement that the investigation was ongoing.

In a letter to district parents Wednesday, Mr. Ralston said the charges do not appear to be related to current Avonworth students and that the district is cooperating with township police and the district attorney's office.

He declined an interview request Wednesday, but said in a prepared statement that student safety is the district's top priority. "Obviously, this incident is alarming and concerning," Mr. Ralston said. "As a parent and an educator, I find this deeply upsetting."

Mr. Street is scheduled for a preliminary hearing next Thursday.

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944. Torsten Ove contributed. First Published February 5, 2014 3:05 PM


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