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Fox Chapel supporters leap to school's defense

Parents, students and teachers tell the School Board a sexual incident was an isolated event and sensationalized. Still, some board members are concerned.

By JENNIFER LIBERTO
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 7, 2002


BROOKSVILLE -- Fox Chapel Middle School proponents are coming to the defense of the school's reputation.

About a dozen teachers, parents and students attended Tuesday's School Board meeting.

They defended the school, which has received bad publicity in recent weeks about sexually charged misbehavior among students, and lashed out against local newspapers for writing about the problems.

"Our school may not be the best, but what school is?" said Katie Nelson, a Fox Chapel student, shrugging as she spoke to the board.

Last month, a 13-year-old Fox Chapel boy was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and lewd and lascivious behavior after he pulled an X-Acto knife to the throats of two girls and grabbed their breasts on Oct. 11.

Most teachers and parents, as well as some School Board members, called the assault an isolated incident. All middle schools deal with similar problems, they said.

Fox Chapel teacher Joellen Demato thought the assault was sensationalized, shaking the community and families of Fox Chapel.

Recent alum Victoria Granger now attends Springstead High School. As a middle school student, she said, she and others knew about sexual incidents. However, such incidents involved "those who wanted to be touched by others," she said.

Nevertheless, some School Board members, including Gail David, remain concerned about the incident.

School Board member Sandra Nicholson has asked the district staff to gather information about gender-isolated education, as either a test project at Fox Chapel or even a policy for all county middle schools.

"It's worth looking into," Nicholson said. "It could solve a lot of problems and avoid some issues."

Nicholson said the board will further discuss gender-isolated eduction at upcoming workshops.

At the same meeting, the board approved the resignation of technology teacher Joseph Phillips, who had supervised the classroom where the recent assault happened. Phillips' last day was Oct. 25.

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