PENN HILLS (KDKA) — The girls’ volleyball team at Penn Hills High School voted not to make the road trip Wednesday night to Connellsville to play the last game in all sports between the two teams this year.
It has been a rocky relationship between the two schools since a boys’ soccer game in September. During that game, Penn Hills players say they were the targets of racial slurs. An investigation and hearing by the WPIAL could not substantiate the claims, but Connellsville did agree to do sensitivity training for all of its students.
Also in that agreement, the schools agreed to notify the other school who would be accompanying the players when the teams visit each other’s schools.
When Connellsville’s girls’ soccer team was coming to Penn Hills for a game, the Fayette County school informed Penn Hills it “would send with their team, their school police officer and their principal,” says WPIAL Executive Director Tim O’Malley.
Penn Hills Superintendent Dr. Nancy J. Hines says when the Connellsville team arrived they were surprised to see the school police officer was carrying a gun. Penn Hills School police do not carry weapons.
Connellsville also sent armed officers to two more games at Penn Hills. In all three cases, Penn Hills was advised in advance the officers were coming and never raised an objection.
During the final game – Girls Volleyball on Oct. 9 – parents became upset at the presence of the officer’s gun. The concern was communicated to Connellsville’s athletic director who was there and the officer left.
O’Malley says Connellsville, like many other district in the WPIAL, have a policy of sending guards with teams. He says Connellsville sends officers to “every away football game their school police attends, every WPIAL playoff game a police officer attends, and every rival game a police officer attends.”
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Dr. Hines says Penn Hills sends unarmed officers to away playoff games, but these recent games are not major sports and says the timing was questionable.
She says, “There is no justification. It’s strange to us, it feels insensitive. Why now? If you’d always done it, we get it, if it was limited to soccer, maybe. What are you afraid of? We complained that we felt you mistreated us. Now why are you afraid of us? Nowhere were their threats.”
Dr. Hines has not asked those questions directly to her counterpart in Connellsville.
The two schools do not face each other in any sport again until next fall, and O’Malley says, “Hopefully, between now and next fall, things will get worked out more effectively.”
Dr. Hines has not ruled out a direct conversation with Connellsville.
KDKA’s calls to Connellsville school officials were not returned.