A reported hazing incident resulted in a police investigation and the cancellation of the Greater Latrobe junior high wrestling team’s season.
“There is an ongoing investigation pertaining to a hazing incident with our junior high school wrestling team,” Greater Latrobe superintendent Dr. Georgia Teppert said following Tuesday’s regular school board meeting.
“All mandated reports have occurred, immediately. Because of personnel and student privacy issues, we are unable to further comment on the situation. However, none of our students are in danger. They are all safe and I want to assure the school community of that.”
The team completed section wrestling matches, but two exhibition tournaments and an exhibition match were canceled. The junior high team was scheduled to participate in the North Allegheny Tournament on Jan. 25, a home match against Connellsville Area on Feb. 12 and a tournament at Norwin two days later.
Teppert said the incident took place “a short period of time ago,” and the details of the case, involving any video footage, has been turned over to the state police. She added that mandated reports have been made and parents have been met with, but she does not know how long the investigation is expected to take.
“The state police has been diligent since it was reported,” Teppert said. “We hope it’s done as soon as possible, but it needs to be done thoroughly and that’s in the hands, right now, of the authorities.”
Tpr. Steve Limani of the Pennsylvania State Police Greensburg barracks said the incident is being investigated as an assault.
“We are investigating an incident of inappropriate behavior,” Limani said. “When we analyze everything and interview everyone, we will make a determination if people will be arrested.”
The school board in October approved a list of winter coaches and salaries for the 2019-20 season. Teppert said it was a list of approved coaches, but wouldn’t divulge names. She also couldn’t mention how many individuals were involved because “the investigation is ongoing.”
“It’s an investigation and we continue to investigate,” Teppert said. “Our students are all safe, and the situation had been immediately dealt with. I need to leave it at that because it’s an ongoing investigation.”
Six wrestling coaches were on the list of winter coaches that were previously approved, but none were designated with specific junior high coach or assistant coaching duties. Michael Ciotti was approved as wrestling head coach for $7,796.25 and Chad Schmeling listed as wrestling first assistant at $4,952.75. Cary Lydic and Dave Galando were named wrestling assistant coaches, both at $3,898.13, while Adam Samide and Tyler Mears approved as wrestling volunteer assistants.
“We’re not going to identify for you those coaches who were at the junior high because it’s a personnel issue and we can’t,” Greater Latrobe assistant superintendent Michael Porembka said in response to a question of who coached the junior high team. “You know the list of coaches that were in there for wrestling. If it wasn’t delineated then, I don’t know if we can delineate it now because it’s a personnel issue. We can’t give you the information that you’re looking for. Not at this point.”
Teppert said Greater Latrobe has an existing anti-hazing board policy in place, and the district also has its student-athletes and parents sign off on the policy prior to the season. In the case of a violation, the incident would be reported to the district superintendent, a superintendent designee or administrator.
“The incident would be investigated and depending on the severity, there’s latitude on what can occur disciplinary-wise with the individual student-athletes,” Teppert said of the district policy. “It’s not specific. It depends on the situation and all of the facts once it’s fully investigated.”
Teppert said district officials will look at preventative measures in the future.
“Obviously, we do our best at all times to ensure the safety of our students and our student-athletes,” Teppert said. “But we always reflect on situations and maybe look at things that we could do preventatively in the future. However, with this situation, again, I don’t want to speak specifics about the occurrence of the situation.”