More than 60 people carrying signs saying, “Schools are not prisons,” “Stop criminalizing our children,” and “Justice for Que’Chawn” rallied outside the Allegheny County Courthouse May 12, asking District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala to recuse himself from investigating alleged cases of abuse in the Woodland Hills school district, saying he is not impartial.
Reverend Richard Freeman, pastor of Resurrection Baptist Church in Braddock, began the rally by noting the District Attorney moved swiftly to charge Joseph Golden III, a behavioral specialist at Rankin Promise, with simple assault and endangering a child, but did not charge Woodland Hills High School principal Kevin Murray and school resource Officer Steve Shaulis, an officer with the Churchill Police Department, after they were seen on surveillance video subduing Black students at the high school.
Golden III is Black, Murray and Shaulis are White.
Reverend Freeman likened Zappala to a dam stopping the flow of justice for Black children in the district, charging them and letting the abusers go free.
“Dam—Stephen Zappala,” he said, which the crowd repeated. “We demand you recuse yourself from cases involving Woodland Hills and turn them over to state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
“We also demand all charges against the students in these cases be dropped,” he added. “We will not stand by while the victims are criminalized and the abusers go free.”
Wade, 14, who attended the rally with his mother and attorney Todd Hollis, can be seen in an April 3 video being dragged by Shaulis into his office where he was allegedly beaten to the point where he lost a tooth. Another student in a 2015 video was seen pinned to the floor by Murray while Officer Shaulis shocked him with a taser several times.