Teacher's aide who had hotel party quits

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A special-education aide at Highlands Senior High School resigned under pressure yesterday and faces possible drug and corruption of minors charges for a hotel party involving high school teenagers.

New Kensington police said they found suspected crack cocaine, empty beer cans and used condoms in a room that Abbiejane Swogger, 34, of Harrison, shared with minors Thursday night at New Kensington's Clarion Hotel. The room contained drug paraphernalia and a marijuana odor when officers arrived just before noon on Friday to follow up on reports of missing teens, said Detective Dennis Marsili.

Investigators questioned Ms. Swogger at the New Kensington police station Friday afternoon, but did not arrest her. Charges could be filed as soon as today, Detective Marsili said.

He said police would consult with the Westmoreland County district attorney's office about whether there's a basis for charges of possession of controlled substances and corruption of minors against Ms. Swogger, and whether any charges should be filed against others involved.

Ms. Swogger was in the hotel lobby when police from New Kensington, Harrison and Tarentum arrived, Detective Marsili said. Two female juveniles from Harrison and Tarentum whose relatives had contacted police after they failed to come home Thursday night were in the room, along with three males.

The police investigation did not factor into action taken against Ms. Swogger yesterday morning by Highlands School District officials, according to Superintendent Karol Galcik. She said Ms. Swogger failed to report for work, without explanation, either Thursday or Friday. A letter was sent to her Friday about her conduct, Dr. Galcik said, advising her to meet with administrative representatives yesterday.

"She did not follow proper procedures in not showing up for work," the superintendent said after yesterday's meeting. "We said that she had a choice to either resign or we would be taking this to the school board [for possible dismissal], and she chose to resign at that time."

The one-time exotic dancer worked since September for the school district at a job paying minimum wage or slightly above. At the time Ms. Swogger was hired, the school district had no drug-testing policy for employees at her level, Dr. Galcik said. The school board later expanded its policy to require such testing in January for new employees, she said.

Ms. Swogger says she rented a hotel room to socialize and drink beer with adult acquaintances, but teenage friends of her son showed up and refused to leave. She maintained yesterday that she knew nothing about drugs in the room and did not give the teens any beer.

"I think if they drank, I would have known about it," she said, adding that she unsuccessfully urged the two girls to leave.

Ms. Swogger also said she did not have sex with any of the young people present. They may have had sex with one another, she said, but did so "discreetly."

She said she was upset to lose her job providing one-on-one personal-needs assistance for a disabled student: "I loved it. I loved the little girl I worked with."

She said she relied on her school income along with child support payments and Social Security checks sent to her on behalf of one of her two sons, whose father died. Her older son, a 10th-grader at Highlands Senior High School, was distraught about the attention her case has received and will transfer to a cyber school, she said.


Gary Rotstein can be reached at grotstein@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1255.


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