Bethlehem Press

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Discipline, technology addressed

Monday, March 30, 2020 by Chris Haring Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Discipline and bullying once again dominated the majority of the school board meeting March 10.

Before the meeting turned contentious, however, the board welcomed two Saucon Valley educators to the floor to provide presentations regarding initiatives within the district.

First to speak was Supervisor of Technology Michael Hanssen, who provided an update regarding the district’s usage of Kajeets brand internet “hotspot” devices. The district provides these devices to students who may not have consistent high-speed internet access at home. Fast, reliable internet access is often required to complete assignments Regarding these devices, Hanssen said “Currently, we have nine of the devices that are in use, of the 30” that were purchased several months ago by the district. He attributed the lackluster deployment of these devices to unawareness of their availability, and said there has been an effort to post materials within the school to remind students who might find them useful.

Next was Director of Special Education Jaime Vlasaty, with a presentation titled “Discipline Procedures for Identified Students,” which outlined the district’s approach to dealing with students who have been identified as requiring some type of special education requirement either in place of, or in addition to, their regular curriculum. This presentation was particularly timely in light of the recent criticism that the board and school administrators have faced regarding bullying, student safety and disciplinary measures. Vlasaty explained that even though her presentation was meant to provide an informative outline, there are many cases that do not easily fit into existing law and operating procedures.

District residents again attended the meeting to speak during the open forum portion though their numbers have dwindled considerably over the past month. Led once again by Jennifer Schmell, several spoke to continue advocating for the district’s adoption of a School Resource Officer. Schmell brought printed materials to distribute to board members containing information she received from the Lower Saucon Police Department. She also obtained statistics via the Right to Know Act to support her argument that the number of calls to the police by district schools strains police department resources and shows a need for an SRO. “There have been, in the 2018-19 school year, 164 calls to this (campus),” Schmell said, contrasting that figure with the 180 instructional days in a typical school year. “You guys do the math,” she added, saying, “Right there is the ‘mic drop’... it’s not about whether or not you guys believe in the need for an SRO, it’s about whether or not you want to pay for an SRO.”

Superintendent Dr. Craig Butler did respond to attendees to close out the meeting, saying, in part, “We have several ideas coming out of our two very short meetings” of a Bullying Task Force that he cited, adding that, “we are 15-16 members strong.” He specifically mentioned a “Say Hello” program meant to discourage intimidation, harassment and bullying; posters and other materials to be posted in their buildings to “encourage positive behavior” and upcoming updates to and revision of their Bullying Procedures, which he stated are almost finished.