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Assault investigation costs four Strasburg High contracts

The Shenandoah Valley-Herald

STRASBURG — Four Shenandoah County school division employees in Strasburg had their supplemental contracts terminated late last month due to an investigation of alleged sexual misconduct by school basketball players.

Superintendent Jeremy Raley didn’t name the employees or their positions last week, but said losing their supplemental contracts doesn’t mean they are fired.

“It refers to extracurricular assignments and duties, including coaching,” Raley said.

Raley said the School Board voted 5-1 to cancel the contracts during a closed-session meeting on Thursday.

Sonya Williams-Giersch voiced the dissenting vote, while Karen Whetzel, Richard Koontz, Irving Getz, Cyndy Walsh and Katheryn Freakley voted for the terminations.

Williams-Giersch represents the county’s Sixth District, which includes Strasburg.

Seven SHS boys’ basketball players are accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old teammate on a team bus on Dec. 19. The Strasburg Police Department told the sheriff’s office about the alleged assault on Jan. 12.

The report led the school division and SHS to cancel the boys’ varsity and JV basketball seasons. It also led the division to launch an investigation, which wrapped in March.

Raley said the terminations were a “direct result” of the investigation, but declined to explain the extent of the employees’ involvement in the alleged assualt.

“I’ve been in the process of reviewing a lot of information,” he said. “I’ve recommended action to the School Board … to make this an even better, stronger school division.”

Sheriff’s deputies issued petitions, the juvenile justice equivalent of indictments, to the seven accused players earlier this year. Four of the suspects are 16 years old, while the other three are 17 years old.

All seven are charged with assault and battery by a mob.

Raley released a statement on the division’s investigation on March 11. It said Raley had reviewed an “extensive” video of the alleged crime and interviewed 75 students, parents and staff members who may have been involved or knew about it.

SHS Principal Morgan Saeler was unavailable for comment.

Sheriff Timothy Carter said Wednesday that the division has filed an injunction in circuit court demanding that the sheriff’s office release the video, which is being held as evidence.

“The school system wants to view the video in a disciplinary hearing, and the Commonwealth’s Attorney has instructed me not to release it,” Carter said.



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