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Armstrong County Children, Youth and Family Services clears Leechburg Area's 'mandated reporters'

Mary Ann Thomas
| Friday, July 15, 2016, 11:45 p.m.

The Armstrong County Children, Youth and Family Services has dropped its allegations against Leechburg Area School administrators and one teacher for any wrongdoing connected with student reports of a substitute teacher inappropriately touching students.

Leechburg Police and Armstrong County detectives have been investigating a former substitute teacher who allegedly inappropriately touched as many as 15 girls.

The initial results of the criminal investigation alleged that school district administrators knew as early as February of the allegations but failed to report them to ChildLine, the statewide child abuse hotline. A call by an elementary school teacher triggered the investigation involving students, administrators and teachers.

No charges have been filed — including against the former substitute teacher.

The Leechburg police and the Armstrong District Attorney Scott Andreassi did not immediately return calls Friday evening for comment.

According to Robert A. Cinpinski, school district solicitor, the criminal investigation has not concluded.

Cinpinski confirmed that the district received the letter this week from Armstrong County CYF absolving the administrators and teacher accused not reporting the claims. CYF officials could not be reached late Friday.

Matthew Kruluts, 59, principal and Michelle Ferretti, 44, vice principal at Leechburg High School were placed on paid administrative leave last month pending an investigation into whether they failed to report the allegations.

School employees are “mandated reporters,” meaning they are legally obligated to immediately report suspected child abuse.

The Armstrong County CYF did its own investigation and notified both principals in letters dated Tuesday that the reports they investigated were unfounded.

In the form letter, the agency said that “… the incident does not meet for abuse according to Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services law.”

The letter goes on to say, “This incident is also the subject of a criminal investigation by law enforcement officials. The ‘unfounded' status applies only to the CYF agency's standards for confirming child abuse. The investigation be conducted by law enforcement officials may continue and result in criminal charges being filed regardless of CYF agency's status.”

Tiffany Nix, superintendent, said, “the close of the (CYF) investigation will allow the district to move forward.

“Not all parties have been called back from administrative leave, pending results from the criminal investigation.

“I am so happy with the outcome,” she said. “This is the first step to put this behind us and move forward.”

Chuck Pascal, Ferretti's attorney, said, “the allegation was unfounded. Michelle wasn't told anything that rose to the level where she had to report it.”

Ferretti, a lifelong Leechburg resident, said, “I feel relieved and ecstatic. I am anxious to be able to continue my career working with the district and the community. I'm anxious to get to all of the great stuff that I was working on.”

Kruluts said, “I'll be glad to put this whole matter behind me. I'm grateful for the support form students, faculty, parents and the community.”

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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