Many parents and students within the Westmont Hilltop School District are outraged amidst police allegations a former elementary music teacher raped a student in 2015.
Many questions are being asked including, whether the situation was properly handled.
And why wasn’t that teacher, Shawn Miller, fired from the school district 11 years ago when allegations first arose?
According to a criminal complaint filed by Upper Yoder Township Police, employment records show that Miller was warned and disciplined numerous times for inappropriately touching students.
Officials we spoke with Wednesday said the accusations never rose to the level of chargeability until now.
After investigator interviews revealed that Miller had been behaving inappropriately for years, it wasn’t until this week that he was charged with a disturbing new allegation: raping a 9-year-old student in 2015.
“I give a lot of credit to the victim in this case for coming forward, providing full disclosure, which I’m sure was not easy for them to do,” said Cambria County District Attorney Greg Neugebauer. “The support the family has given to this victim is very admirable.”
Employment records obtained by the district show that Miller was warned and disciplined over the years by the district for inappropriately touching students and making comments.
“Charges cannot be brought based upon rumors,” said Neugebauer. “Charges can be based upon hard evidence. A lot of times, there will be rumors in the community, but no victim actually comes forward and makes a statement and provides that information.”
Upper Yoder police say the victim experienced similar harassment earlier in 2011, but that it never rose to the level of chargeability.
Officials say, even though mandated reporter laws “child line” these instances straight to police, it doesn’t always amount to anything.
“The victim did state that she felt like no one really heard her the first time, so when the situation escalated, she stated that she didn’t come forward with the escalation because she didn’t think anything was going to happen,” explained Acting Upper Yoder Township Police Chief John Blake.
Police say they have had even more victims come forward in recent days and hope more continue to come forward.
“I would implore any victim of any type of crime like this to please come forward. Be it, if you’ve been harmed in school, church, home, friend’s house, relative’s house,” said Blake. “Please come forward and tell law enforcement your story.”
The district attorney says that victims in this case should report to Upper Yoder Police Department (814-255-6227), Cambria county non-emergency line (814-472-2100), or the district attorney’s office (814-472-1680) to speak with county detectives.