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Dead-Animal Incidents Raise Tensions in Teachers' Strike in Affluent Pa. District

We've seen a number of tense teachers' strikes this fall, but the one going on in Peters Township, Pa., has become particularly ugly over the past couple weeks, with reports of protesters dropping dead animals along the teachers' picket line.

On Tuesday morning, some teachers reportedly arrived at the picket line in front of Peters Township high to find a rotting deer carcass on their path. To dispel any doubt that the incident was strike-related, the deer had been spray-painted with the local union's initials. (Here's a picture.)

The deer dropping, according to reports, was the latest in a string of similar incidents. Last week, someone driving by in a pickup truck threw a plastic bag containing a dead squirrel at picketers, and a dead raccoon was found hanging over a nearby traffic sign.

"This is uncalled for," said Paul Homer, a representative for the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers (via WTAE.com, in Pittsburgh). "We're viewing this as a threat. And no intimidation, item, factor, whatever, is going to intimidate us into stopping the strike."

Teachers in the largely affluent, 4,300-student Peters district have been on strike over salary and health insurance issues since Oct. 28. Despite some progress, talks between the union and the district have repeatedly broken down, leading to a tense standoff between teachers and parents at a school board meeting this week.

The district has maintained that it does not have the resources to meet the teachers' demands and has reportedly asked the union to suspend the strike pending a long-awaited state budget resolution that its leaders believe may further complicate its finances.

The union has rejected the district's claims. "It's an upper middle class community," said Homer, according to a CBS Pittsburgh report. "They have over $24 million in the bank."

The Peters Township police department, meanwhile, is investigating the deer carcass incident, and has identified a "person of interest" in the case.

But police are not yet speculating publicly on a possible motive.

"Not until we apprehend the bad guy. Because until we know what's in his mind, it could have been a student, it could have been a parent, it could have been a teacher, because they all have a play," said Police Chief Harry Fruecht.

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