Former Allentown (Pennsylvania) School District teacher Michael Frassetto, who had led a student walk-out in late September to protest the district’s treatment of minority students, was convicted Monday on three counts for his role in the protest.
The district had sought a “corruption of youth” charge on Frassetto for each of the 417 students involved in the protests, but Judge Karen Devine found him guilty of only three.
Frassetto and the student activists had demanded the resignation of District Superintendent Russ Mayo, among other things. The teacher also told students that the district “do[esn’t] care about you,” citing the dismal stat that only seven percent of district graduates go on to get a bachelor’s degree.
Each of the three counts carries a $100 fine.
After the verdict, Frassetto read a prepared statement expressing his thanks for those who supported the students.
“That continued support of our students is essential to their future and to our city, which was to bring attention to the failure, ineptitude and inequities that exist within the Allentown School District,” he said.
Freund said he wasn’t dissatisfied that Frassetto wasn’t found guilty of more counts, but was disappointed that Frassetto didn’t seem to take responsibility for the walkouts.
In his testimony, Frassetto repeatedly said the walkouts were not his idea but were proposed by students. He said he was not the only organizer of the walkouts. Frassetto said he reached out to the principals and Allentown police before the walkouts to let them know about them.
When asked about a post on his Facebook account that encouraged students to leave school, Frassetto said he wasn’t sure if he posted it because other people have his password. Devine agreed there was no way to prove Frassetto had done the actual posting.
The district played a video from Frassetto’s Facebook account in which he told students they would not get in trouble for walking out and to “trust him.” Frassetto did admit it was him in the video.
When asked by attorneys what his involvement in the walkout actually was, Frassetto said, “I gave kids the opportunity to exercise their First Amendment right.”
Frassetto’s lawyer compared the educator to Nelson Mandela and Gandhi because he “encouraged students to stand up for their rights and peacefully demonstrate.”
h/t to EAGNews.org
IMAGE: Sam Felder/Flickr