It was front page news in the Bucks County Herald in early July that another Central Bucks teacher was charged with corruption of a minor. The former CB South and West teacher had electronically communicated with the minor in a sexual manner. While the Bucks DA’s office uncovered nothing in their initial investigation, CB Superintendent Lucabaugh persisted and perverse details emerged.
The same week, another area teacher, a Pennridge Football assistant coach, was arrested as part of an underage sex trafficking investigation. Within a week, a fourteen-year-old girl narrowly escaped abduction at a local mall.
As parents in Central Bucks, it feels as though there is often danger surrounding our children, with all of this news close on the heels of the sentencing of CB West Choir teacher Joseph Ohrt for indecent assault, and corruption of minors after his grooming of students.
READ MORE — Paul Davis: Yeah, try that stuff in a small town
There has never been a better time for Central Bucks to partner with local organizations to inoculate our children against sexual predation. Dr. Lucabaugh announced that CB would be adding programs from NOVA (Network of Victim Assistance). NOVA is already contracted for a number of programs in Central Bucks schools and schools in other areas, and they are an excellent prevention partner. Aside from programs that can be implemented in the schools, voluntary evening sessions can foster communication, create trust, and educate parents on ways to protect their children.
There are additional ways to protect and help our students.
School Resource Officers have been utilized around the country, especially in secondary schools. Officer Robert Bell, through a partnership with Warrington Township and CBSD, has served as an SRO at CB South since 2014, returning in September 2022 after a pandemic-related hiatus.
It’s hard to argue with the positive results of Officer Bell’s presence. In 2021 (while Officer Bell was on hiatus), there were 262 incidents; when he returned in 2022, that dropped to 144 incidents. Comparatively at CB West (covered by Central Bucks Regional Police with No SRO), there were 192 incidents in 2021 and 201 Incidents in 2022.
“I hope my presence at Central Bucks South provides peace of mind and support to the administration, staff and students,” says Officer Bell. “Being a School Resource Officer enables me to be both a counselor and a mentor to my students, offering guidance and advice as they encounter challenges.”
Let’s work together to foster protection for our kids and staff in Central Bucks.
The role of SROs in building relationships, de-escalating mental health issues, and mentoring cannot be overemphasized. SROs help students share uncomfortable situations in which they may be unsure how to proceed — situations like the disturbing Ohrt and London matters we have now witnessed as a community. Deterring crimes and fostering cooperation and problem solving among students are additional benefits of SRO programs.
In fact, though there has been a general post-lockdown spike in crime in Bucks County, we had problems in our schools before the pandemic.
In 2019, a fire suspected to be arson caused $1.3 million in damage to a Cold Spring Elementary School classroom.
Emergency responders were called to Lenape Middle School in 2019, when a student was in crisis.
The Burgess protests in May 2022 at Lenape Middle School forced faculty and administration to handle several dangerous situations: parents in the community bypassed security, a riot broke out that ended with four teachers injured and one student sent to the hospital, and a non-CB parent lured students outside with pizza and candy, getting them to open the security doors.
Lenape Principal Saullo received a death threat that night, and said “vitriolic, hateful, profanity-filled phone messages and emails [were] sent to [Lenape’s] administrators.” Some were later found to be from students.
In all these situations, a SRO would have prevented and handled these situations and their aftermath. CB South already has Officer Bell, and CB East is in productive discussions with Buckingham police. CB West however, remains in limbo: it was announced at the Tuesday Board meeting that the Central Bucks Regional police commission was unable to get a SRO at CB West.
We support enhanced education of parents, students and staff at all levels through proven programming, including SROs for all our high schools in 2023. We would even support further expansion of SRO-like programs to lower grades. Let’s work together to foster protection for our kids and staff in Central Bucks.
Aarati Martino, Ph.D. is a Doylestown mom and software engineer running for Central Bucks School Director, Region 6.
Stephen Mass, M.D. has been a Doylestown-based surgeon for 24 years. He is running for Central Bucks School Director, Region 1.