Parents seek improved dialogue
During the public comment portion of the school board meeting on Dec. 19, several parents expressed concerns about the district’s handling of communication after alleged threats to student safety were received by authorities on Dec. 4.
Superintendent Richard Sniscak explained the threats occurred on a Friday night in a private home.
“On Monday, we found out about a threat and turned it over to police,” Sniscak said. “When an investigation takes place by police, it’s in police hands.
“When law enforcement becomes involved, then it’s turned over to law enforcement.
“We were not trying to keep anything from the public. We were following the chain of command.
“Our main goal is the safety of our students. Our priority is to keep our students and staff safe.”
South Whitehall police, the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office, and the Allentown office of the FBI conducted an investigation which resulted in two 15-year-old boys being taken into custody Dec. 6.
“Students who made the threats were not in school,” Sniscak said. “There was never a safety issue.”
He said social media took off with alleged rumors and caused disruption at the school.
Parent Henry Trevino said the district failed at communication in this incident.
“No information at all was given,” Trevino said.
“We’d like to have simple notification that there is a serious matter being taken care of.
“Security is a serious aspect I can’t ignore.”
Parent Chris Napolitano reported he was distressed to have after-school activities continue as usual on Dec. 4.
“We had no idea anything was going on,” Napolitano said.
Sniscak said he spoke with District Attorney Jim Martin regarding communication when incidents occur and are turned over to law enforcement.
Sniscak said Martin told him in the future it will be permissible for the administration to provide information to parents while an incident is under investigation.
Board member Rob Cohen commented on the situation.
“I have two precious grandchildren in this school district,” Cohen said. “No. 1 on our list is that our kids are safe and secure.
“With communication, we’re all learning it’s a new age. As a team, let’s see how we can make this better.”
A parent who identified himself as “Rich” stepped forward and derided the district for talking about rumors.
“It was a fact, not a rumor,” Rich said. “It’s real threats. Just admit you messed up.”
Board President David Kennedy responded.
“If this makes you happy, as president of the school board, I’ll say it. We messed up,” Kennedy said.
Board member Carol Facchiano advised everyone to trust the people in charge — the administration and law enforcement.