(SOURCE: “Pittsburgh’s Action News 4”) A local judge has recommended the charges be dropped against a former middle school teacher who said she was fired after she reported that a male student had been sexually assaulted by two fellow students during a class trip to the Pittsburgh Zoo, The Post-Gazette reported Thursday.
The paper also reported the victim’s mother took issue with the prosecution’s request to move the case to juvenile court and use state-imposed juvenile laws to keep her as a witness against the ex-teacher.
“I know it is in bad faith that they would seek this, but it is also in the best interest of our child,” the woman said. “I’m asking you to move this case to the juvenile court system.”
The Post-Gazette reported the victim is now an adult, has completed high school and has college credits.
Judge Robert Kwan, of Allegheny County, said he is recommending the charges against Cheryl Miller, 53, of Jeannette, be dropped because the victim’s mother wants to “relinquish” her parental rights in the case. The judge, who made his recommendation in writing, would defer to the county district attorney’s office if the prosecution should request a hearing to re-evaluate the facts.
Kwan also told Fox 26 that it should be clear that Miller did “her job,” stopping the alleged sexual assault.
“All of the facts are there,” he said. “She’s on notice. She made sure the boys did not leave.”
Defense attorney Anthony Marrocco, who has represented Miller since the investigation began, said he looks forward to examining all the available evidence and “recommending the strongest resolution” in a closed hearing.
Marrocco also told KDKA-TV that he is “pleased” with the judge’s recommendation and felt “blindsided” when the state took the case from the district attorney’s office.
As for the victim’s mother, he said he’s been in touch with her and “deeply respects her.”
Miller was fired in March after authorities said she ignored signs of a sexual assault. She had been on paid administrative leave since February after a parent called police and said he had seen Miller text her students in a sexual way in her classroom after school.
Some of the messages read, “do you want to go downtown w/me?” and “show up ready to have fun w/me,” according to a criminal complaint.
The investigation led to the charges against both 17-year-old students and Miller.
Miller, who taught geography, science and social studies at Monongahela Valley Middle School, didn’t return a message left by Fox 26. The case was dismissed from Pittsburgh Municipal Court last month.
“We appreciate the judge’s recommendation in a case where a veteran educator was erroneously accused of simply following her training to report a serious and potentially criminal matter,” Millers attorney said in a statement. “In this day and age of the social media and digital media age, teachers do a very difficult job.”