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Police: Squirrel Hill student assaulted on way to school

| Monday, June 2, 2008

Another Pittsburgh Public Schools student was assaulted on her way to school this morning in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh police said.

The assault -- the sixth reported to police in the past two weeks on girls walking to school -- occurred about 8:30 a.m. at the corner of Phillips Avenue and Beechwood Boulevard, police said.

A man touched a 14-year-old, eighth-grade student on her buttocks who was headed to Colfax Accelerated Learning Academy on Beechwood with a group of friends, police said.

The man ran toward Shady Avenue after the assault, police said. City and school police searched the neighborhood but did not find the man.

Police confirmed that the man appeared to be in his 20s and had brown hair and a full beard. That is similar to the descriptions given of suspects in previous assaults.

Three students from Grandview Elementary School in the city's Allentown section reported being assaulted about two weeks ago.

• At 8 a.m. May 19, a man approached a 7-year-old girl and touched her on the buttocks at Allen and McCain streets in Allentown, police said.

• About 45 minutes later, a man approached a 10-year-old girl at Caton Street and Shady Avenue in Squirrel Hill and touched a Minadeo Elementary student on her buttocks.

• Just before 4 p.m. May 20, a man got out of a gray car and touched a 10-year-old girl from Minadeo on her buttocks as she walked past the corner of Lilac and Saline streets in Squirrel Hill, police said.

• A 9-year-old girl walking on Allen Street about 8 a.m. May 21 said a man began fondling. He fled when an adult saw him, police said.

• A 10-year-old girl told a school counselor she also was accosted about the same time on Allen Street by a man with a similar description, police said.

In February, a man approached five girls -- ages 7 to 12 -- on Hobart Street in Squirrel Hill and tried to pull down two girls' skirts, police said. A week later, a man driving a white car pulled next to a 12-year-old girl and asked if he could help her, investigators said.

Police would not say whether the incidents were related or the same man committed the assaults.

The Pittsburgh Public Schools district plans to send home letters to parents notifying them of today's incident and giving them advice on how to keep their children safe, district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said.

School police also planned an increased presence at Colfax during this afternoon's dismissal, Pugh said.

"We're asking the staff to be vigilant with suspicious people and that members of the community be aware that this is going on," she said. "If this can happen in Squirrel Hill, it can happen anywhere."

About 4,000 of the district's 28,000 students walk to school, Pugh said.

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