By Patrick P. McNally
The Home and School Association of St. Martha’s Parish changed its agenda Wednesday night in response to recent assaults on students of both the grade school and nearby Archbishop Ryan High School by students of the Camelot at Shallcross School.
“Steps are being taken,” said St. Martha Pastor Al Masluk to the packed school hall, noting that since the bulk of the attacks on Tuesday, he has met with State Rep. Dennis O’Brien (R-169), Capt. Deborah Kelly of the 8th District and Milton Alexander of the Camelot School.
While many parents stated that the assaults have been a problem for years, O’Brien and Kelly focused on the one incident on April 17, and four more on May 12. Four youths were identified by the victims, apprehended and taken into custody. It is not known if they have since been released.
“These individuals eloped from that site and walked down Academy Road,” said O’Brien, who added that the alleged assailants are now under suspension. “They are entitled to due process, but could be expelled, with intent to dismiss.”
It was revealed that the four youths did not take school transportation, instead riding SEPTA buses to school. O’Brien assured the crowd that the practice would be discontinued.
“We have asked the School District to bring in two more yellow buses,” he said. “There will be no SEPTA transportation.”
But parents responded with many concerns. One father of an Archbishop Ryan student who was assaulted questioned the plan.
“I don’t know if two buses is the solution,” he said. “These kids are bussed in. Ultimately, they need to be somewhere else.”
Indeed, the Camelot and Shallcross School was not even supposed to be occupied this school year. The initial plan of the School District was to move to the former site of the Orleans Technical Institute at 1330 Rhawn St. But protests by residents banded together by the Fox Chase Civic Association effectively stopped the move in September, keeping the original facility open. Alexander told the meeting attendees that seven buses bring in 275 students to the school daily.
He tried to assure the crowd that the school was secure. Alexander has reached out to the principal at St. Martha’s and officials at Archbishop Ryan, and promised them that the problems will be solved
“We are investigating and dealing with this,” he said. “We can respond and be accountable.”
His statement did little to assure the parents, who countered with a number of stories about students who regularly leave the Camelot grounds
“The only acceptable resolution is to get [the students] out of here,” one parent said.
O’Brien responded that, ultimately, the long-term solution is that if the school is to remain open, it will only be available for neighborhood students. Those bused from other neighborhoods will stay near their area schools.
O’Brien gave parents the support they were looking for: “I am going to do all that I can to make sure that these kids will not be in our neighborhood.”