In light of bullying, racism and other issues, the Saucon Valley School Board is making a risky choice by opting not to employ a school district resource officer, a Hellertown parent told board members at their meeting Tuesday.
A year-and-a-half ago it was reported that Saucon Valley School District was the only district in the Lehigh Valley that did not or had no plans to employ a full-time resource officer.
Jennifer Schmell stressed that point in a presentation, in which she said Saucon Valley is “one of the richest districts” and has also steadily lowered its payroll through attrition.
“In 2005, there were a 194 teachers employed,” Schmell said. “Now, in 2019, there are 167; a 27-person variance. Let’s assume that all those teachers are paid $40,000 a year. That’s over a million dollars in savings. So, where has that money gone to? Why can’t we hire a resource officer?”
She said that unlike some other students, her son hasn’t personally experienced bullying as a Saucon Valley student, but that that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been exposed to potential violence and other student behavior she finds unacceptable as a parent.
“I am horrified yet thankful for some of the terrible situations and experiences my son has had to experience,” she told the board, in a statement. “He’s witnessed another child being threatened with a knife–under the age of 12. He’s witnessed multiple fights; another student showing my son soft pornography on his phone at the age of eight. Stuff that would take your breath away. Never did I have any of these experiences growing up.”
Schmell said she attended and graduated from Saucon Valley schools.
She told the board her son has also experienced being in a class in which another student was so disruptive and “violent” that “the entire class had to leave (and) go to an alternate room just to be safe.”
“This child still attends our elementary school and is still causing problems three years later,” she said. “I was and am still shocked that this goes undisciplined.”
Making examples out of children by filing charges in cases such as one from last year–in which two alleged 10-year-old bullies were charged by the Hellertown Police Department–is a good thing, Schmell told the board.
“What is most troubling to me is that…this district has refused to hire resource officers to actively protect our children,” she said, adding that in her opinion, subjects like bullying and vaping are “completely swept under the rug” at Saucon Valley.
She said she is not someone who is easily offended, but showed board members a blank piece of white paper with a black dot on it, which she said students were given as part of an art assignment.
“A lot of those students used that dot as a face,” she said, noting that someone could be offended by what they drew.
“Clearly we are a soft school district because these two 10-year-olds should never have been allowed to set foot back in our schools,” Schmell said, referring to the 10-year-olds, who police said allegedly threatened to shoot other children.
“It was courageous for Hellertown police to discipline these kids and the school district didn’t back them up, and I truly feel that’s a crime,” Schmell stated. “As I said I think it’s fantastic that you are teaching our children how to respond in an active shooter situation, but what’s lacking is a proactive strategy to prevent bullying behavior from the beginning and continuing and potentially ending with a catastrophic event. If Saucon Valley School District is too soft and can’t support a zero tolerance bullying policy as evidenced, and continues to refuse to expel kids who threaten other kids with violence, then it’s time to buck up, review the budget and reallocate dollars for a resource officer. This is not rocket science. It’s common sense.”
Following her presentation there was no comment from any board members at the meeting.
In a message following the meeting, Schmell said she plans “to fight this initiative through” and will be attending the next school board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 28, at which she will deliver “Chapter 2” to the board.
Public school board meetings are held at 7 p.m. in the high school Audion room on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. The meetings are also live-streamed on YouTube and uploaded for viewing after each meeting has ended. Click here to watch the video of the Jan. 14 meeting.