In response to what he said are recent comments about bullying in Saucon Valley schools posted on social media, Saucon Valley School Disrict superintendent Dr. Craig Butler has sought to reassure parents that the district is adequately addressing all bullying concerns.
In a letter emailed to parents Thursday–which has since been shared on social media–Butler said “the district’s focus (is) on the importance of positive school culture and climate, as well as the safety and well-being of all individuals in our school community.”
“The Saucon Valley School District administration and staff takes very seriously its responsibility to promote a positive culture and climate throughout the district,” he said. “Any report of alleged bullying, harassment or discrimination is handled with the utmost concern and prompt attention. Ongoing efforts and training are in place to implement activities and uphold policy to promote a welcoming and respectful environment in all buildings, for all individuals. To that end, we do investigate reports of bullying, harassment and discrimination in a timely fashion and follow policy as it relates to each occurrence. Our focus is for each student to have a positive experience while pursuing their education in the Saucon Valley School District.”
Butler’s statement was shared in a newly-formed Facebook group called The Saucon Valley Community Against Bullying, which as of Thursday had more than 140 members and numerous posts related to personal experiences involving bullying in local schools.
The group was formed by Hellertown parent MaryAnn Wisser, who says she was forced to withdraw her child from Saucon Valley after he was bullied and she found the district’s response to that to be inadequate.
Wisser began the group after Saucon Valley Middle School parent David Clarke, of Hellertown, told both Butler and the school board last month that the middle school administration’s response to the bullying his daughter has endured was “unacceptable.”
Clarke said that from the beginning of the school year his sixth-grade daughter was tormented by one particular male student, with whom she was forced to share a school bus even after he complained about the situation.
The boy was eventually put on a different bus and offered counseling, according to Clarke, who said the same offer was never extended to his family. Instead, a licensed psychologist in Hellertown reached out and has been assisting his daughter.
A story published by Saucon Source about Clarke’s Oct. 22 confrontation with administrators and officials was what unleashed a torrent of Facebook comments by parents and former students who by and large described a tolerant attitude toward bullying in Saucon Valley schools.
In some cases, parents said a lack of effective solutions to bullying at Saucon Valley has led them to homeschool their children or enroll them in private or parochial schools.
The school district has an anti-bullying policy–last updated in June–but it doesn’t address issues such as when or if reporting of bullying incidents to law enforcement officials must occur, for example. Instead, that is left at the administration’s discretion.
Under Pennsylvania’s Anti-Bullying law school districts are given considerable discretion in terms of how their anti-bullying policies are not only written, but also enforced.
Members of the anti-bullying Facebook group have said they plan to address the school board about their concerns at the next school board meeting, which will be held Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. in the high school Audion room. Meetings are open to the public and a draft version of Tuesday’s agenda is available in advance on the district’s website.
Clarke said Wednesday that he requested a pre-scheduled appearance which would have effectively placed the bullying issue on the board’s agenda, but was told he will have to speak during the portion of the meeting reserved for visitor comments.