sam vs. the school board

samWell this puts a new spin on “Sam I am .”

I was on Facebook this morning and caught something that the editor of Delco Times, Phil Heron, had put up.  Phil is one of my favorite editors of local/regional papers.  He is no-nonsense, calls it like it is.  His editorial corner is a play on words and is called the “Heron’s Nest” (if you don’t read it, you should – he covers lots of things not just what is going on in Delaware County.)

So this morning’s offering is titled A Sun Valley drama starring Sam Schmucker.  It is about this boy Sam from Sun Valley High School over in Delaware County who in essence stuck up for his girlfriend being bullied by the adult director of the school play that they were both in. This director made this girl cry and Sam went to her defense.  The problem is Sam also grabbed the guy’s collar.

Ok so Sam got booted from the play.  You would have thought that was the end of it.  But no, now his school district and school board ( Penn-Delco School Board) are thinking of expelling him.  The irony is this kid Sam is a really good student, vice president of his senior class, and is such a nice kid he gets awards to that effect.

Ok wow.  Talk about a heavy hand, right?

This is the crap about educators and school boards I don’t get.  Was Sam right? His heart was in the right place and instincts as far as protecting someone who was hurt, but the actions, NO.  Not right for many reasons.

However the flip side of this is bullies in schools aren’t just the kids so it makes you wonder doesn’t it about this adult the director doesn’t it?  Reducing students to tears and causing extremes in negative emotion/action?  Of course when educators and school boards wonder why some kids end up anti-establishment maybe they need to look in the mirror, huh?

So I decided to blog this.  I don’t know Sam, will never meet Sam, yet I think Sam is getting the short end of the stick here.

Sam was wrong laying hands on anyone.  That accomplishes nothing.  But it is entirely understandable human nature to go to another human being in crisis.   And as Phil Heron says in his editorial :

“Sam Schmucker is a Life Scout and was scheduled to receive the American Citizenship Award for the second straight year before this tempest in a teapot exploded.”

Translation: this is a good kid that half the parents in the world wished their kid could be like who made a mistake.  And in my mind he was standing up to bullying.

One of my largest problems with educators and school districts today seems to go across the board from district to district. It happens in private schools, Catholic schools, charter schools. They talk a good game about bullying but don’t actually do much about it.  And don’t tell me it doesn’t happen, have seen it with my own eyes.

Bullying is not always just from the kid on kid angle.  I have seen plenty of adults in positions of power who were the biggest bullies of all.  Please, if we are honest with ourselves we experienced it.  Some experienced worse.

How about the pretty girls who are preyed upon by lecherous male teachers?  We’re not talking the girls pretending to be Lolita and experimenting with their own sexuality with deliberate behavior that got them into a pickle (not that it was right for adult males to think playing with underage girls is ok), we’re talking about girls who were true innocents.  Think it doesn’t happen? It happens.  It didn’t happen to me thank God, but can’t say the same for everyone I know.

Can we talk about the Squash Coach from my alma mater who was sentenced in May for his inappropriate relationship with a minor girl? Or the swim coach from the WCASD High School Bayard Rustin who was recently sentenced for his inappropriate relationship with a minor girl? (And I took some heat  for expressing my disgust on that topic when the news first broke too).

My point is this: I never quite believe when schools say they don’t know this stuff is going on and wonder how much is a surprise and how much they just didn’t check out when they could have. For example in this case with this drama teacher, were there ever complaints or whispers of issues with him being too heavy-handed with kids?   Did he have a pattern of only looking to himself and not to the best interest of the children he was responsible for?  Were plays for his own glory or for the students?

Maybe you think I should not have taken this brief detour or think I am co-mingling too much, but my other point is the kids aren’t always at fault are they?  What of extenuating circumstances? What if these girls who were preyed upon by male teachers had been booted out of their schools for not saying “no” for example?  How would that make people feel?

Sam the senior in high school is not too young to learn the lesson of consequences from laying hands on another person like that. He got tossed out of the play and served a 16 day suspension.  Enough already.  This school board wants to make an example out of him and prove what big adults they are.  Enough already.  Seems to me that their overreaction might be covering up other issues? Issues that have nothing to do with this kid Sam?

Why should this school board have the power to ruin this kid’s life?  This is a college track kid with a bright future ahead of him who screwed up.  Does he deserve to pay with his entire future?

I don’t think so.  I don’t think what he did was right although I think his heart was in the right place.  But this is not some hardened juvenile delinquent.  This is a good kid who did a dumb thing.  Good lord I think actual juvenile delinquents and school bullies get more chances than this Sam is getting.

#FreeSam and Save his future.

And as an aside, I thought the name of the school board’s lawyer rang a bell so I Googled Barry Van Rensler, after all how many lawyers who represent school districts with that name can exist?  This is what I came up with:

State team moves in to study solicitors’ bills The rapid state action focuses largely on the Upper Darby school district and one lawyer.

By Barbara Boyer INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Posted: May 01, 2003

Investigators, at the direction of Auditor General Robert P. Casey Jr., arrived in Upper Darby yesterday to begin scrutiny of lawyers’ bills in six Delaware County school districts.

The special investigation, ordered by Casey on Tuesday, is noteworthy for the rapidity with which the investigative team was mobilized. Under the direction of former federal prosecutor Peter J. Smith, investigators will determine whether there is any basis for criminal charges…….Casey ordered the special investigation after articles in The Inquirer this week reported that the Upper Darby School District paid solicitor Barry Van Rensler for working more than 24 hours a day on six occasions since 1997.

Taxpayers footed the bill because school officials never noticed

The Laughing Lawyer: Lawyer clocks 81-hour day. State to decide whether to throw lawyer or clock away.  (Slight parody you can click and read for yourself)

So it seems to me that Solicitor  Van Rensler got a bunch of second chances because he is still representing school districts isn’t he?  So why can’t he suggest his clients be more magnanimous with a kid?

Here’s the media coverage on Sam.  What do you think?

Heron’s NestFriday, March 15, 2013   A Sun Valley drama starring Sam Schmucker

It’s not every day you meet a kid who gets in a tiff with an adult and admits he was wrong.

Well, meet Sam Schmucker.

Sam is vice president of the senior class at Sun Valley High School. At least for another week.

Right now he’s serving a suspension. And the Penn-Delco School Board is considering expelling him. You can read all the details here.….

Penn-Delco vs. Sam Schmucker: The sun might come out tomorrow for student facing expulsion (With Video)

Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 By LAURA WISELEY Times Correspondent

ASTON — A Sun Valley High School senior will continue to serve out a suspension for his role in an altercation with a school employee while the Penn-Delco School Board deliberates whether he should be permanently expelled from the school.

About 75 people came out to support Sam Schmucker, 17, during a two-hour expulsion hearing Thursday at the district services center, after which the school board voted 4-3 against allowing Schmucker to return to school while they deliberate his possible expulsion.

 • Video: Sam Schmucker talks about incident.

…. In his testimony Thursday, Schmucker said he was talking with another student when the play’s lead female role, who is also Schmucker’s girlfriend, ran past him and into the school’s basement, saying she “couldn’t deal with it anymore.”

What she couldn’t deal with, Schmucker testified, were comments from play director John Baxter. Schmucker said Baxter came looking for the female student, and as he passed Schmucker, the student grabbed Baxter by the shirt and yelled at him….Schmucker said he could not recall details of the conversation or whether he had pushed Baxter against the wall, but said he did try to apologize to the director about 10 minutes later…..Barry Van Rensler, the attorney representing the district…“If this was a C student who never got in trouble, but never did any activities, are we saying we wouldn’t throw him out?” he asked the board. “Because this student has an A average and a wonderful family and lots of friends and can pay an attorney, he should be different?

Fox News (Fox 29 Philadelphia) High School Senior Faces Expulsion After Confrontation With School Play Director