Lehigh Valley

Saucon Valley HS wins award for 'Heart over Hate'

Program aimed at reducing racism

HELLERTOWN, Pa. - Saucon Valley High School was notified on March 1 that it would receive one of three Excellence in Education awards from the state's Colonial Intermediate Unit #20 (IU #20) for its winning entry, "Heart over Hate: Climate, Culture, and Inclusion Education." 

Principal Beth Guarriello announced the award Tuesday evening at the district's school board meeting.

Guarriello said the high school was recognized not only for submitting an outstanding application but also for its efforts at sustaining it.

She pointed out that seven high school teachers involved put "hours and hours of work" into the program, which was created primarily to address racist comments that had been made at the high school and which garnered not only local but national media attention prior to the 2016 national elections.

District documents on the winning entry state some Saucon parents said their children were the victims of racist bullying for years.

A string of racist incidents in 2016-2017 that culminated with a student facing an ethnic intimidation charge prompted a federal civil rights lawsuit to which the district responded with a concerted effort to fight racism in any form. 

The high school's plan was a series of events initiated by an inclusion committee led by Guarriello, with ongoing activities and presentations aimed at professional development for all high school adults, a student problem identification and resolution of issues group and school-wide monthly inclusion lessons for students.

Additional activities were assemblies highlighting inclusion, tolerance and acceptance; a climate and culture survey and student attendance at inclusion conferences. 

Guarriello named the high school teachers and the committees they headed as part of the initiative:

  • Amber Sams, librarian: Literacy Week
  • Megan Hauser, English: Spirit Committee Moderator 
  • Theresa Andreucci, Spanish: Hispanic Art Show
  • Amy Kozel, social studies: Rwandan genocide speaker
  • Mario Marcozzi, government and journalism: marketing and public relations
  • Genia Miller: heroin and opioid speaker 
  • Kim Tassinaro, biology: gay-straight alliance student group moderator

Since the beginning of the current school year, a new monthly theme outlining coordinating activities and presentation has been established. 

According to the IU, the awards and merit scholars recognition ceremony to which Saucon Valley has been invited will be held April 19 in Stroudsburg.

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