PASD expresses support to families, reaffirms responsibility to students

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Following a week of tragedy and scandal locally and statewide, Officials with the Punxsutawney Area School District made heartfelt statements at the beginning and the end of Monday’s school board meeting.

“On behalf of the school board, administration, faculty, staff and students of the Punxsutawney Area School District, I would like to extend heartfelt condolences to the families of Dylan Behrendt, Sean McConnaughey and Joel Riggleman,” Superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe said during the board’s moment of silent meditation Monday. “We would also like to assure the Smith family that they continue to be in our thoughts and prayers for a speedy and full recovery for Blair.”

The four students were involved in a violent one-vehicle crash Friday night along Route 839, just south of Route 1022, Wayne Township, Armstrong County.

Behrendt, McConnaughey and Riggleman — all 2011 graduates of PAHS — were killed in the crash, while Smith was transported to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he was listed in critical condition Sunday, according to Kittanning-based Pennsylvania State Police.

A phone call to Allegheny General regarding Smith’s updated condition was not returned Monday.

Following the school board’s meeting Monday, PAHS Principal David London said counselors offering words of support to students were busy, while a number of teachers also had some discussion about the incident in class. “It was pretty quiet,” he said about Monday’s classes.

London also said a number of students were planning to attend viewings for Behrendt and McConnaughey at the McCabe Funeral Home that night. “They need to go,” he said.

A blessing service and a funeral Mass will be held for Behrendt and McConnaughey today at the McCabe Funeral Home and SS.C.D. Church, respectively, while viewings will be held for Riggleman today and a funeral service tomorrow, both at the Christian Missionary Alliance Church.

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Also, at the end of the meeting, board President Gary Conrad read a statement regarding an alleged sex scandal involving young children and a former Penn State football coach that has shaken the university and its alumni, fans and Pennsylvanians.

“With all the negative news, let us all in the Punxsutawney School District and the Punxsutawney community use this as awareness into our own moral responsibility as adults,” he read.

“Let us do more to educate our students that there is help available,” Conrad read. “Whether it’s abuse, drugs, bullying, depression or just needing someone to talk to, we as adults need to be there for that child. No child should stand alone.

“We all need to become more aware of what is going on around us — illegal and immoral. Step forward; it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
“There is no joy in what I have said, but there is no joy in a tragic story,” Conrad read. “For Punxsy, our most valuable resource is our children. It is our moral duty to protect them.”