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Evidence Indicates Racial Problems at Saucon are Real (Editorial)

Collectively burying our heads in the sand or blaming the media for its coverage of racism in local schools will not make the problem go away.

Est. Read Time: 4 mins

Since news about a fight between two Saucon Valley High School students–one white, one black– broke in the fall, there has been a steady undercurrent of ‘denial syndrome’ by a few readers, who continue to deny that the fight was provoked by racism, and that racism exists at all in the small, tight-knit community of Saucon Valley–in spite of what authorities including the Lower Saucon Township Police, the district attorney and some parents of minority students have said.

To an extent this is understandable. Hopefully no one wants to believe racism lies so close to home, where it has the potential to affect our children’s education–something several black familes in November told the school board has already happened. There comes a point, however, when it behooves all of us to take a step back and try to look at the weight of the evidence that is being presented as objectively as possible, without the emotion of personal beliefs, past experiences or hometown pride coloring our view of the facts as they are known.

If you haven’t already done that, the time is now.

On Tuesday, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli announced that following an investigation he will pursue charges of ethnic intimidation and cyber harassment against the white 14-year-old student who allegedly used the N-word and other derogatory, racially-motivated comments to describe his 16-year-old black classmate in a video he posted on Snapchat; a video some of your children may have seen. Most Saucon Source readers hailed this decision and posted positively about it on Facebook. Others, however, expressed negative opinions about it and one person chose to hurl attacks at the messenger who shared this news, as well as others.

To these readers I am here to tell you Mr. Morganelli would not file these charges and in the process unleash a torrent of negative publicity for the district without substantial evidence; something I think has been made clear at his news conferences. I strongly believe that evidence exists. I also believe that regardless of what happened in this incident, other racist incidents have occurred in the recent past, and racism and antisocial behavior that targets minority students have no place in Saucon Valley schools, and cannot be tolerated or condoned in any way.

It has been disheartening to read comments that seek to downplay the latest chapter in this saga as “nonsense,” as one commenter called it. Another referred to it as a typical fight between two boys; a fight that could seemingly happen in any high school in America on any given day. Let’s hope that’s not the case.

Others blamed the media for exaggerating the seriousness of what allegedly happened with Facebook comments such as this one: “Congratulations Media! You have successfully taken a school yard scrap and turned it into a national racial hate crime. Be proud!” And then there was this comment, which refers to the news that a few Saucon Valley students have self-identified themselves as “rednecks.” “This is such a joke lol I seriously think the country kids ‘rednecks’ are identifying themselves as a gang it’s the same as when we were in school it’s just a bunch of kids that hangout who are country they are labeling that through the media.”

The media hasn’t put the redneck label on anyone. And if what Mr. Morganelli (who’s publicly called the Snapchat video “repulsive”) and parents have said is true, there are racial problems in Saucon, at least among a small minority of students. The charges speak for themselves and ultimately this matter will be adjudicated in a juvenile criminal court (along with the civil courts, quite possibly).

I am here to cover Saucon Valley because I love it, and that is what I will continue to do, as fairly and accurately as possible. As a journalist I also love the truth, or the nearest approximation to it one can reasonably achieve. Blaming the media will not help solve the real racial issues that exist at Saucon; issues that perhaps could have been dealt with more proactively by current and/or past administrations and the school board. Whether that is the case or not, we, the public, will never know, as school disciplinary information is privileged and not likely ever to be shared in any meaningful way. Ultimately, racism begins at home–not in schools–and the real ‘villain’ in this entire sad saga is any Saucon Valley family that harbors racist beliefs and inculcates them in their children; kids who have the ability to spread hate in a public school in a way in which their parents certainly would not dare to do at work.

If this is not what you want to hear or it offends you, you are welcome not to read further coverage of this issue, which I am afraid will continue to be emotionally divisive in our community. However, burying our collective head in the sand hasn’t worked and will not work in the future. Saucon Valley needs fair media coverage of this issue if it truly wants the problems that have come to light in recent months to be solved. We also need a united front–perhaps a coalition of parents, teachers, administrators and school board members–to decry racism of any kind and work to promote tolerance in the community. This can be done without “naming names.”

What has happened already can’t be undone, but the good news is that Saucon Valley is already and will continue to be a fantastic school district, full of caring, professional staff, administrators and the vast majority of students whose families have instilled tolerance in them. Let’s work together to help make Saucon even better, and a role model for acceptance and kindness in the future.


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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at

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