- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2016

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A grand jury has recommended no criminal charges against officials in a school district where two teachers have been convicted of having sex with students and two more face related charges.

The report issued Thursday by the Allegheny County district attorney’s office found “systematic failures to protect students” in the Plum Borough School District but concluded no school official broke laws requiring police to be notified of teacher sex allegations or other inappropriate conduct.

“We attribute these failures in large part to an academic culture that encouraged the protection of friends and colleagues over students, insularity, avoidance of personal responsibility in favor of shifting the onus onto others without follow up, and turning a blind eye to obvious signs of teacher misconduct,” the report says.

School Superintendent Tim Glasspool told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he agreed with the decision not to recommend charges but disputed the accuracy of some testimony detailed in the report.

The grand jury began investigating after teachers Joseph Ruggieri and Jason Cooper were charged last year with having inappropriate sexual relationships with two female students.

Ruggieri, 41, pleaded guilty last month to charges of institutional sex assault and corruption of minors and was sentenced to two to five years in prison. He also pleaded guilty to witness intimidation after authorities said he contacted his victim while free on bond.

Cooper, 39, pleaded guilty earlier to student sex charges and was sentenced to 1 1/2 to 3 years in prison.

Still facing charges are Michael Cinefra, a former substitute math teacher and baseball coach charged with having sex with a female student, and Drew Zoldak, a suspended teacher accused of trying to intimidate Ruggieri’s victim by pointing her out in class and telling other students he was interviewed by detectives because of her. Both have continued to deny wrongdoing.

The grand jury said it was “tempted to affix criminal liability on other individuals who were clearly derelict in their duties to protect the children in their care” but the way statutes are worded and a “lack of documentation” by administrators and the district’s school resource officer prevented that.

The grand jury noted that some of the allegations that led to the teachers’ arrests occurred as state law was changing regarding who had a legal duty to report such information and how that was to be done.

State laws changed greatly after the child sex scandal at Penn State University, where former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of molesting several boys, some on campus. Sandusky was convicted in 2012 and is in prison but maintains he’s innocent.

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