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GREEN TREE (KDKA) — The WPIAL Board of Directors voted Monday to impose sanctions against Penn Hills for an incident involving a smoke bomb set off during the playoffs.

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A lot of strong words were exchanged during a rare open meeting of the WPIAL Board of Directors along with members of the Penn Hills School District and coaching staff, including head football coach Jon LeDonne. All were in attendance at the WPIAL office in Green Tree.

On Monday, it was time for the school’s appeal of the sanctions imposed on the Penn Hills Indians team.

“I don’t think it’s fair to sanction a team who will be in those uniforms next year when they had absolutely no involvement. There’s no evidence to suggest that and even as testimony was given today and remarks made by the WPIAL board, they never suggested there was any underclassmen involved in that. Also, the coaches, they felt that they had done what was appropriate. It did not happen again after Nov. 23, so we feel that that has been appropriate,” Dr. Nancy Hines, Penns Hills superintendent, said.

The WPIAL decided Monday night to impose the sanctions against Penn Hills.

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In a statement on Tuesday morning, Hines said: “Of course, the Penn Hills School District is disappointed that the WPIAL Board was not receptive to the alternative sanctions we proposed as a more appropriate and meaningful consequence for the incident that occurred on November 23, 2018. Our hope was that the WPIAL Board would be willing to look beyond purely punitive sanctions and modify the educational component of their original sanctions to include the student athletes. We also asked the WPIAL Board to extend their sanctions to include mandatory community service for the entire 2018 football team and coaching staff. I even offered to participate in the training and community service, as did our Athletic Director and HS Principal. As I feared, WPIAL’s refusal to modify their original sanctions and their decision not to incorporate any of our recommendations, leaves many in the Penn Hills community, along with supporters beyond our borders, feeling extremely disheartened. We remain hopeful, however, that the PIAA will be more considerate of our recommendations and support our efforts to turn this unfortunate situation into a teachable moment about safety, civility, and responsibility.”

If LeDonne is not suspended for one game, the WPIAL will bar the State Championship Indians from the playoffs this upcoming season.

The WPIAL wants Penn Hills to suspend LeDonne for that one game because of what happened during the 2018 season opener when someone on the Penn Hills sideline set off a large smoke bomb. A similar incident occurred when the team entered the field just before the WPIAL 5A championship against West Allegheny at Norwin High School on Nov. 23.

LeDonne says he spoke stern words to the team prohibiting such behavior, that we now know involved two senior members of the football team.

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Penn Hills did have some recommendations of their own rather than the penalties the WPIAL wants, including awareness about the dangers of smoke bomb devices and for the entire team to take part in community service for fire victims.