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Woodland Hills Superintendent on Disturbing Videos of Abuse Against Black Students: ‘Its Easy to Pass Judgment’ 

Screenshot of video showing Officer Steve Shaulis physically assaulting a then 15-year-old student at Woodland Hills High School.

The superintendent of a Pittsburgh, Pa., school district says he’s sure the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office will conduct a full and impartial investigation into videos showing physical altercations between a school resource officer and two Black students.

Woodland Hills Schools Superintendent Alan Johnson said Thursday, May 5, that the district needed take a step back and assess what it could do to create a more positive environment in its schools for students. Yet, he stopped short of addressing the severity of the altercations seen in the videos, seemingly in an effort to avoid placing blame.

“We live in a world where judgment is passed on the basis of a 30-second video clip,” he said in an email to the Tribune-Review. “All I want to see is that there is a fair assessment and judgment of what has taken place. Whatever results from that inquiry will be something that we will support.”

The videos, captured this year and from 2015, showed Churchill Police Officer Steve Shaulis violently arresting two Black male students on separate occasions. Shaulis was assigned as the resource officer at local Woodland Hills High School, according to the newspaper.

In an April 3 incident, a 14-year-old student claimed the officer knocked his front teeth out during the arrest. The boy’s attorney, Todd Hollis, argued that Black students were the focus of a clear pattern of abuse at the school.

A video from March 3 captured Shaulis as he put a 15-year-old student in a headlock who had been sent to the front office. The officer is later seen body slamming the boy and tasing him multiple times. Hollis also said a 14-year-old student with special needs recorded school principal Kevin Murray allegedly threatening him in April 2016.

“We’re gonna turn over every stone,” the attorney said. “We’re gonna dot every ‘I,’ we’re gonna cross every ‘T’ to the extent that the facts lead us to filing [a] suit.”

Shualis’ attorney, Phil Dilucente, said the officer won’t be working at the school during the investigation. There is no word on his employment status.

Johnson has since defended the high school and school district.

“Anyone can bash us,” he told the Tribune-Review. “Schools are easy targets. We do a great job for 99.9 percent of the students who come through our doors. We are warm, caring and supportive. A very few times, that doesn’t happen — and when it doesn’t, we are painted as uncaring and mean.”

“It’s easy to pass a judgment on one video,” he added. “It requires little in the way of thought to pronounce us as ‘guilty’ based on a video because it doesn’t require that anyone look deeper at the institution and what it is has been trying to achieve.

“What we hope to find are partners who are willing to spend some time with us and to get to know us. That is what we are going to focus on in the longer term.”

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