Father says son with autism was forced to drink own urine, eat feces
JEFFERSON HILLS, Pa. —
Jefferson Hills borough police are investigating a report that students at the Steel Center Career and Technical Education school forced a Bethel Park student with autism to drink his own urine and eat his own feces.
No charges have been filed according to police, but there is an ongoing investigation into the alleged incident. WTAE is not naming the victim or any of the students suspected in the incident.
The victim’s father contacted Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 and said his son lives with autism and bipolar disorder. He said the alleged incidents happened Oct. 13 and Oct. 18 at the school in Jefferson Hills.
Steel Center serves students in grades 10, 11 and 12 who are bused to the location for half-days.
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The victim’s father hired attorney Phil DiLucente to represent his family.
“I’m not going to sleep until this young man and his family receives justice from the school district, from everybody that’s involved. When you have someone who is in a special needs state, and they’re taken advantage of in this manner, this should not happen in our school districts today,” said DiLucente.
Steel Center’s executive director, Kevin Rice, declined a request for an on-camera interview but did email a statement to WTAE.
Administrators at Steel Center for Career and Technical Education are in the process of conducting an investigation into a confidential student matter. We will provide additional information if appropriate at a later time. Steel Center for Career and Technical Education regards the health and well-being of its students as its highest priority. All appropriate steps are being taken at this time. We have no further comment. Additional inquiries should be directed to Steel Center for Career and Technical Education’s school solicitor,” said Rice.
Solicitor Ira Weiss confirmed that the other two students involved in the incident are from the West Mifflin school district and from the South Park school district.
WTAE emailed West Mifflin superintendent Dan Castagna and South Park superintendent Wayne Gdovic but did not receive any responses prior to this publication.
Jefferson Hills Borough police chief Gene Roach was not in the office Friday. WTAE was told he is the only person with the department who can conduct interviews or provide further information on the investigation.
The victim’s father said the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office advised him not to talk publicly about the case.
WTAE reached out to the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office communications director and chief spokesperson Mike Manko for any details on the investigation.
“I don’t know anything about this investigation,” said Manko.
The Bethel Park school district spokesperson stressed that the students accused of forcing the student into the alleged actions are not from Bethel Park. She said the district is not heading the investigation but is willing to assist in it if asked.
As members of the Jefferson Hills community learned of the incident, concern for the student quickly spread. Sharon Bittner said she is the mother of a student with autism (she is not the mother of the alleged victim).
“It’s devastating. It’s heartbreaking. I feel bad for that child. I feel bad for the parents. You want justice done. It’s a shame. This kids are so often very, very loving and accepting of everyone no matter what and they’re treated very badly at times,” said Bittner.
DiLucente called the case “an abomination.”
“Here is a clear situation where a student was taken advantage of by other students and justice needs to be served. I’m not going to sleep until that happens for this family,” said DiLucente.