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District Attorney Zappala satisfied with discipline at Brashear High School

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By Matthew Santoni and Bill Zlatos
Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said he is satisfied with Pittsburgh Public Schools' handling of discipline at Brashear High School, though the district could hire a firm next week to investigate the Nov. 13 shooting.

District Solicitor Ira Weiss wrote Zappala to explain the district changed how often it would refer students to a magistrate for cases of disorderly conduct.

District Judge James A. Motznik had asked Zappala's office to look into the shooting outside the school, noting that his office noted an 85 percent decrease in crimes reported by the school over five years.

“The district attorney received the ... letter this week regarding Brashear, and he is satisfied with the explanation given by the solicitor for how they are handling matters,” said Zappala's spokesman, Mike Manko.

Weiss said the district over-reported cases of “disorderly conduct” by as much as three times the state average for the past two years because of a broad definition in the schools' code of student conduct.

After consulting with the auditor general and the Education Law Center, the district refined its definition of “disorderly conduct” to fit the state's criminal code — causing public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm through violent behavior, unreasonable noise, obscenities, or creating hazardous conditions — so students no longer would be cited and referred to the magistrate for minor infractions.

Weiss said minor infractions that no longer would rise to the level of a citation could include misbehaving in class or minor scuffling in school, although more major infractions could still lead to police intervention.

“When you have a significant incident, school police can file charges in juvenile court, which can have a greater effect than writing a citation and referring the student to a magistrate,” Weiss said.

Violations that rise to the level of criminal conduct still would result in school discipline and referral to the magistrate, Weiss said.

“The district will be conducting an external review of the incidents preceding the Brashear shooting and the shooting itself, including the response of the district police and security measures in place at the school,” Weiss wrote.

The school board will vote on Tuesday whether to hire an outside company to look into the case.

District administrators recommended that Monaca-based CSI Corporate Security and Investigations review the shooting and a related incident in October to evaluate the district's response and security procedures. The cost is not to exceed $4,000.

According to Pittsburgh police, Anjohnito “A.J.” Willet, 16, shot Andrew Umphrey, 17; Dajour Jones, 15; and Robert Eugene Minor III, 17, in retaliation for a fight and robbery at the Beechview school on Oct. 18. The victims were treated in hospitals and released.

Police arrested Willet on charges of attempted homicide and aggravated assault.

Matthew Santoni is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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