Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh Girls Attacked

Squirrel Hill on alert after students accosted
By Joe Smydo
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Thursday, February 14, 2008

Schools in Squirrel Hill are warning parents and students to take extra precautions after a stranger accosted a group of girls on Hobart Street last week.

Two 9-year-olds and two 7-year-olds were walking home about 4:20 p.m. last Thursday when a man approached, spoke and attempted to pull down the younger girls' skirts, city police Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki said yesterday.

The girls ran to a nearby house for help, and the man drove away in a small silver vehicle, Cmdr. Stangrecki said.

The girls attend Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh, the Jewish school's president, Barry Faigen, said, noting the school asked police to step up patrols.

He said Hillel also alerted other schools, contacted parents and called an assembly to remind students about "stranger danger."

Cmdr. Stangrecki described the assailant as white, about 6-foot-1, with a thin build and short brown hair, wearing a blue baseball cap, blue and white-striped shirt, light blue pants and white tennis shoes.

Rabbi Aaron Kagan, of Kollel Jewish Learning Center, said he heard about a second incident in which a different man last week tried to lure a girl into his car. He did not have other details.

Mr. Faigen said that incident also may have involved a Hillel student but he did not know whether the girl's family had filed a police report. Cmdr. Stangrecki said he had no report.

Officials of two other Jewish schools in Squirrel Hill, Community Day and Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh, reported no problems involving their students. Ebony Pugh, spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh Public Schools, said she had received no reports of problems involving district students.

Rabbi Yisroel Rosenfeld, dean of Yeshiva Schools, said parents were sent an e-mail urging them to accompany children on the street if possible, or have older students look after younger ones.

"Hopefully, with everybody's awareness and everybody being concerned, we can avoid any future incidents," he said.

David May-Stein, principal of the school district's Pittsburgh Colfax K-8, yesterday sent parents a letter urging them to take precautions.

"It is imperative that parents report any incidents to the police," he said.

Mr. May-Stein said he intended to speak to younger students about stranger danger in a "developmentally appropriate manner" and would encourage middle-grade children not to walk alone. His letter offered safety tips and encouraged parents to speak to their children about the problem.

Ms. Pugh said Pittsburgh Minadeo PreK-5, another district elementary school in Squirrel Hill, would send a similar letter to parents.


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