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Gateway High School marching band director charged with giving student alcohol

Gateway Band Director Suspended
Gateway marching band director suspended 01:29

MONROEVILLE, Pa. (KDKA) - The Gateway High School marching band director is charged with giving a student alcohol.

According to the criminal complaint, James Hoeltje gave an 18-year-old student alcohol on a band trip in Virginia Beach and before the prom. KDKA-TV learned that about 50 students and at least nine chaperones were on the trip.

On the band trip in April, the teen — who is a recent Gateway High graduate — told police Hoeltje gave her "airplane type" bottles of vodka and whiskey before he allegedly attempted to kiss her multiple times. Police said he climbed on top of her, but she got away. As she went to leave, the complaint said Hoeltje grabbed the teen's buttocks and asked her to come back later.

Hoeltje admitted to police the teen was in his hotel room and said he didn't stop her when she took a mini bottle of alcohol. According to the complaint, Hoeltje said he may have accidentally touched the teen's bottom while reaching for the door handle. He denied that he attempted to kiss the teen. 

Police said the teen also told them Hoeltje gave her a bottle of vodka at school before prom, which she shared with other students. 

The victim said she began texting and Snapchatting with Hoeltje in January 2022 and that sometimes the conversations would be "sexual in nature." Police said Hoeltje acknowledged he probably crossed a line and shared too much about his personal life with her.

Gateway Superintendent Dr. William Short said Hoeltje, who has been working for Gateway for 14 years, is suspended.

"Today I was notified that an employee was charged officially," said Short. "To be honest with you, it's appalling. It's not our standard here at Gateway. I want to assure everyone we are dealing with it in an efficient and important manner." 

"It's appalling," Short told KDKA-TV. "We are upset as a board, as a community. We want to make sure that we make this correct." 

The superintendent got a phone call Friday from the police chief saying that a Gateway employee was being investigated. Over the weekend, the superintendent sent a letter to parents about that investigation, saying band camp was postponed on Aug. 8. On Monday, police charged the 37-year-old with one count of selling or furnishing liquor to a minor, a misdemeanor.

"This was an employee for a number of years, (he) was exemplary," said school board president Jack Bova. "It's inconceivable and we are at a loss."

It's unclear who will fill in to lead the marching band.

KDKA-TV reached out to Hoeltje on Monday but did not hear back.

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