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Avonworth teacher's sex abuse case causes unease

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Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

Parents who want answers about how Avonworth School District dealt with a longtime teacher accused of sexual assault said they will take their concerns to the school board on Monday night.

“I'm really upset about this issue,” said Rebecca Stetser, 37, of Ohio Township, the mother of three children in the district. “What we're asking for is a complete accounting of how this was handled.”

Ohio Township police on Jan. 31 charged Walter Street, 58, of Ben Avon with rape, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault and other crimes. He is being held in the Allegheny County Jail on $200,000 bail. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

District Superintendent Thomas Ralston alerted police on Jan. 17 when he found a letter on Street's school laptop detailing an inappropriate relationship, according to a criminal complaint. The victim told police that Street had begun assaulting her when she was 10 and the assaults continued for years.

“Obviously, we understand the parents are frustrated and concerned, and we do understand that parents are planning on coming to our board meeting Monday night,” said district spokeswoman Dana Hackley. “They are an open forum, and parents are encouraged to voice their opinion. There probably are some difficult questions that we won't be able to answer, but the children and their safety are our No. 1 priority.

“We're not trying to be evasive; we just can't comment on certain things because it's an ongoing investigation.”

The district of about 1,500 students covers Ben Avon, Ben Avon Heights, Emsworth, Kilbuck and Ohio Township.

Street joined Avonworth in 1989 as a music teacher at the middle and high schools, Hackley said. The district moved him to the elementary school in 2009, she said. Hackley said Street is on leave from the district. She declined to say whether he is being paid.

Neither Ralston, members of the school board, nor police Cpl. Chris Simcoviak, the district's school resource officer, returned calls. Kelly Walbush, president of the district teachers union, declined to comment.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927.

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