Identity & Justice

The identity and justice desk explores how the makeup of the Pittsburgh community is changing, and digs into issues of diversity and equity.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

Eleven McKeesport Area High School students allege their school district has blocked the creation of a black student union. Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, they sued the district and its superintendent in federal court last week.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council approved granting $77,500 to Gabriel Despres on Tuesday, a payment to settle a federal lawsuit Despres filed after former police Sgt. Stephen Matakovich beat him in 2015. Matakovich is serving a 27-month prison sentence as a result of the incident outside Heinz Field.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

More than three weeks after former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld was acquitted in the shooting death of Antwon Rose, local activists are stepping up demands for police reform.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh has historically been a city concerned about too many people leaving, but these days, concerns have shifted to what types of people are coming into the city. A study out last month by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition called Pittsburgh one of the fastest gentrifying cities in the country. 

'Invisible' Victims: Survivors Of Sexual Abuse By Nuns Demand To Be Counted

Apr 12, 2019
(Courtesy of Patricia Cahill)

When Patricia Cahill was 15, a nun who taught at a nearby Catholic high school invited her to perform at a hootenanny mass.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

An Allegheny County jail inmate has died.

Timothy Pauley, 34, of Weirton, W. Va. had attempted suicide on Sunday and was found unresponsive in his cell.

Pauley was transported to UPMC Mercy Hospital where he died Thursday afternoon. The county medical examiner has not yet issued a cause of death.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Pauley was facing a homicide charge in the December death of 48-year-old Thomas Garner.

Pat Sullivan / AP

Pennsylvania has reduced its backlog of untested rape kits by nearly 90 percent in three years.

Kate Hagerty

health and wellness fair in downtown Pittsburgh this weekend aims to connect the immigrant and refugee communities with service providers.


In a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday, 11 McKeesport Area high school students accused a school official of blocking their effort to create a black student union. The suit comes after the district did not meet a deadline the American Civil Liberties Union set for last Friday to allow the group to form.

Fight Over Sexual Abuse Victims’ Lawsuits Returns To Senate

Apr 10, 2019
Matt Rourke / AP

Democratic lawmakers are attempting anew to give now-adult victims of child sexual abuse a reprieve from time limits in Pennsylvania law that prohibit them from suing perpetrators and institutions that may have covered it up.

Senate Democrats said Wednesday they're introducing legislation that's been propelled by child sexual abuse scandals, including in Pennsylvania's Roman Catholic dioceses. The state House was scheduled later Wednesday to vote on similar legislation.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

A new report from the Anti-Defamation League shows similarities in the online activity of the men accused of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque shooting. Both men frequently posted about "white genocide" on fringe websites, and announced their intentions to commit violence before their respective attacks.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Offering prayers and making speeches, Pennsylvania lawmakers came together in an unusual joint session Wednesday to commemorate the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack that killed 11 people last year.

Matt Rourke / AP

The nation's oldest reform school had its licenses revoked Monday amid an investigation into allegations of child abuse at the suburban Philadelphia campus, and a spokeswoman said the school will appeal.

The decision follows an investigation published this year by The Philadelphia Inquirer that detailed decades of alleged abuse and cover-ups at the 193-year-old Glen Mills Schools.

Pennsylvania Internet News Service

Pennsylvania's new secretary of pardons said Monday he wants to streamline the pardon process and push for automatic record expungement for those pardoned. Brandon Flood has first hand experience with the commonwealth's pardons system.

Pennsylvania House To Again Consider Child Sex Abuse Bills

Apr 4, 2019
Matt Rourke / AP

Two bills that could make it easier for victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits, an issue that roiled the General Assembly last year, are expected to get votes next week in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Google Maps

An effort to form a black student union within the McKeesport Area School District has had trouble getting off the ground. District superintendent Mark Holtzman has resisted the idea even though the American Civil Liberties Union has warned it could sue over the matter.

Elana Gordon / WHYY

Safehouse, the Philadelphia nonprofit hoping to open the nation’s first supervised injection site for opioid users, says the law is on its side.

Tom Downing / WITF

Pennsylvania’s Latino community came together for a first-of-its-kind convention in Lancaster last fall.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

The non-partisan group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is hosting a series of workshops, town halls and awareness programs to help educate low-income tenants on their legal rights.

Judge Imposes First Jail Terms In Penn St. Frat Death Case

Apr 3, 2019
Gene J. Puskar / AP

A judge has sentenced three former Penn State fraternity members to jail in the 2017 death of a pledge, the first defendants ordered to serve time behind bars in a case that rewrote Pennsylvania's anti-hazing law.

Bucks County District Attorney, via AP

Pennsylvania officials are scheduled to release a report on how child welfare agencies handled the case of a teenager who endured years of abuse before her 2016 rape and murder.

Sara Packer pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced Friday to life without parole for plotting the death of her adoptive daughter, 14-year-old Grace Packer. Sara Packer's boyfriend, Jacob Sullivan, who raped and strangled Grace, was sentenced to death last week.

Keith Srakocic / AP

A trauma response team is spending the week with former classmates of slain teenager Antwon Rose Jr. at Woodland Hills High School. The counseling group, operated through FOCUS Pittsburgh, provides mental health services to residents of affected communities to facilitate what founder Rev. Paul Abernathy calls “trauma-informed community development.”

Keith Srakocic / AP

A Roman Catholic diocese in Pennsylvania has agreed to pay $2 million to a man who was sexually abused as a child by a priest who made him say confession after the assaults.

The settlement with the Diocese of Erie was announced Tuesday by the victim's attorney, Mitchell Garabedian.

The defrocked priest, David Poulson, was sentenced this year to 2 1/2 to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to the sexual assault of one boy and attempted sexual assault of another.

Sabrina Bodon / 90.5 WESA

The foreman of a jury that acquitted a white Pennsylvania police officer of homicide said Michael Rosfeld did not know the black teen he shot was unarmed and that his decision to run after his vehicle was pulled over factored into the verdict.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Hundreds of high school and college students walked out of classrooms Monday morning demanding justice for Antwon Rose, the teen who was shot and killed in June by an East Pittsburgh police officer.

Amy Sisk / 90.5 WESA

Amid a weekend of protests after the verdict came late Friday in the trial over the fatal shooting of Antwon Rose, people gathered in Rankin on Sunday to honor the 17 year old.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

After rallying in support of the family of Antwon Rose Jr. in the Hill District on Saturday afternoon, a crowd of hundreds marched downtown, blocking streets and chanting “No justice, no peace!” and “Who did this? The police did this!”

Matt Rourke / AP

The wife of former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld burst into tears, shaking uncontrollably, when a jury announced Friday it had acquitted her husband of homicide. Meanwhile, the mother of Antwon Rose, who the officer fatally shot last summer, did not cry in the courtroom. Michelle Kenney later said she was disappointed in the verdict but not surprised.

Lawyer's Office Shot At After Rosfeld's Acquittal In Antwon Rose's Death

Mar 23, 2019
Sabrina Bodon / 90.5 WESA

Gunshots were fired overnight through the office window of the attorney for a white police officer acquitted in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager - a verdict that left Pittsburgh a city on edge Saturday.


A jury on Friday acquitted a white former police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager in the back as he was fleeing a high-stakes traffic stop outside Pittsburgh, a confrontation that was captured on video and led to weeks of unrest.