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Police, Central Catholic discuss investigation

| Thursday, Oct. 31, 2002

Pittsburgh police investigators met with the principal of Central Catholic High School on Wednesday to discuss the investigation into allegations that two school football players sexually assaulted another boy during a preseason hazing incident.

Also, parents received a letter from the Central Catholic principal, Brother Richard Grzeskiewicz, explaining what the school did when first told of the allegations and the plans being made to ensure that nothing similar happens again.

Police Cmdr. Maurita Bryant would not discuss the topic of the meeting at the Oakland campus.

"School officials are cooperating fully with this investigation," she said. "They want to help resolve this issue as much as we do."

A 15-year-old former football player, who has since transferred, told police that a 15-year-old teammate held him down in the locker room before a practice session in August while a 16-year-old player rubbed his genitals on the alleged victim's face and head.

The two players were charged with indecent assault on Oct. 24 and the school suspended them the next day.

Central Catholic administrators pulled the team out of the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League playoffs after learning that some team members witnessed the incident but denied it.

An Allegheny County judge this week refused a request by the Vikings Parent Association to issue an injunction to allow the team to compete in the playoffs.

"We took that step so that our sons who are innocent would have a chance to play," said Kathy DiGiacomo, president of the boosters group. "They deserve a chance to play because they did nothing wrong."

She said the parents will not appeal the judge's decision.

According to the letter from Grzeskiewicz:

"In August, we were informed of an accusation made by one of our football players that he was assaulted by two other players in the locker room during football practice. Other students were said to be present during this incident but were not identified.

"On learning the names of the accused, the parents of the students were informed of the accusation and the two students were interviewed by Dr. (George) Paul, assistant principal, when they denied the allegation.

"Mr. (Larry) Michelangelo, athletic director; Art Walker (Jr.), head football coach, and Richard Capretta, dean of students, were also made aware of the accusations and spoke to the two accused players who again denied the allegations.

"During the week of August 19, the coaches met with the football team… (and) asked any player to see a coach immediately if they knew anything about the allegation. No player provided any information.

"In addition, several other players were questioned as to who may have witnessed the incident in question. No information was given that could substantiate the allegation and no other football player could recall such an incident ever happening at Central Catholic.

"Among the players questioned, we were not able to find any other player who could lend credence to this allegation…Thus, the situation became a case of one student's word against other students."

Grzeskiewicz told the parents that the school is refining its policies of supervision and developing stronger programs to explain appropriate and inappropriate behavior to students. Programs dealing with hazing or bullying will be incorporated into the curriculum.

He added that: "Central Catholic High School is held to a higher standard than other academic institutions by our parents, alumni and general public."

Staff writer JoAnne Klimovich Harrop contributed to this report.

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