Lehigh Valley

Parent questions lackadaisical response to bullying incident at Freedom High School

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - A man named Tony Saraceng challenged the Bethlehem Area School District Monday night for a little less conversation and a little more action.

During the district's board of directors meeting, Saraceng walked to the podium during a public comment session, cleared his throat and told a story, in at times, what could be described as a wavering voice, that the district's bullying policy was a well-written document and clearly provides what will and will not be tolerated in the school district concerning students.

The problem, in his view, is that the district doesn't actually do it.

"A policy is only as good as it's enforceable," Saraceng told directors. "...The wordsmithing you want to do to the policy won't matter if you don't follow through on it."

He told the story of his daughter, a student at Freedom High School, who was a victim of bullying on May 30th and then of his equally frustrating and repeated attempts to receive so much as a report on the incident from the district, which as of Monday night, 10 weeks after the incident, remains unresolved.

"Every step of the way, I have to initiate the dialogue," he told directors about his experience with district administrators, starting from the first meeting he had with the assistant principal of the school three days after the incident, to repeated follow ups afterward.

Now with only two weeks remaining before the first day of the school year, the incident still hasn't been addressed.

Saraceng told directors his daughter is apprehensive about returning to school in two weeks with last year's incident still officially unresolved.

He urged directors to hold administrators "accountable" for implementing legislation passed by the legislative body.

"I'm very disappointed to hear there has been no resolution to this," director Eugene McKeon said, asking Superintendent Joseph Roy for a report on what transpired, or didn't, for the next board meeting. 

In other business Monday night, directors scheduled a public hearing for the new Nitschman Middle School construction project for 7:30 p.m. on September 22nd at the auditorium of the East Hills Middle School Auditorium.

This hearing is required by law.

In addition, the board also voted to engage the services of Sperry Van Ness Commercial Real Estate Advisors to actively market two district properties - the Rosemont Building at 815 Pennsylvania Ave. and the Monocacy Building, located at 1815 Main Street - which have been "vacant and mothballed" for the last five years.

The school district does not plan to use the buildings as a district educational facility because it would be most cost effective to add onto existing schools rather than reopen either building, according to the district.

Director Rogelio Ortiz was absent from Monday night's meeting.


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