4 Students Now Claim Abuse At Woodland Hills High School

May 3, 2017

More Woodland Hills High School students have come forward alleging abuse by a school principal and a school resource officer.

Four students are claiming abuse over the past two years, according to Pittsburgh Attorney Todd Hollis, who represents three of the students.

A 2015 surveillance video shows a student thrown to the ground by armed school resource officer Steve Shaulis, who works for the Churchill Police Department. The school’s principal, Kevin Murray, assisted Shaulis in holding the student down. The student was then Tasered.

A surveillance video, released this week, shows an altercation between a student and Shaulis, that concludes with him punching out a student’s tooth. The Allegheny County District Attorney’s office is currently investigating the incident and will share findings with federal investigators.

Hollis said other students and their families are considering lawsuits and that he believes more students have been Tasered, and will come forward.

“In a scenario like this, where you have one child that’s alleging abuse and within four months you’ve got three other kids, and most of them say the same thing – I doubt that this is an isolated event,” Hollis said.

Hollis said two of the students he represents have special needs.

“We want additional training,” Hollis said. “We want these individuals removed. We don’t ever want them around children, to have the opportunity to injure a kid, and we want a culture change.”

Woodland Hills Superintendent Alan Johnson said the principal and officer acted in accordance with protocol.

“Am I happy that we ended up in a physical confrontation with a student? No,” he said. “Obviously we never want to see that happen. Am I going to be so naïve to say there’s never going to be a physical confrontation? That’s gonna happen. It’ll happen again.”

But he said Woodland Hills High School has been taking steps to improve students’ outcomes.  

“We know that in most urban high schools, ours included, students of color, particularly black males tend to get suspended at higher rates,” Johnson said. “They tend to be expelled more frequently, and that’s something we’ve known about for a long time.”

Johnson said before the allegations of abuse, the school district rewrote its code of conduct and began practicing restorative justice and cultural awareness training, but that training is limited to school staff, since resource officer work on a contracted basis for the district.

Johnson said suspensions and expulsions, especially for black students who make up 70 percent of the district's student population, are going down.

Shaulis is still on duty, but out of the school because of the investigation. Murray was on paid administrative leave during an investigation, but was reinstated in January.