Let me start by telling you that this is not the typical corruption case, in which someone plies a minor with alcohol or drugs for nefarious purposes. In the context of this prosecution "Any person who knowingly aids, abets, entices or encourages a minor younger than 18 years of age to commit truancy commits a summary offense." It's called corruption of minors, but should be called truancy.
|Ed DeGrace so vulgar in morning session|
that Frassetto supporters asked him to be quiet.
He failed to return in the afternoon.
Judge Devine, with a face that was almost always smiling, noted that there is no defense of justification. In other words, it makes no difference why Frassetto wanted kids to cut class. If he knowingly encouraged the walkout, he committed a summary offense.
Devine's courtroom, if you can call it that, is in the basement of the old Lehigh County Courthouse. It's a tiny room with a table and a hodgepodge of chairs. About 25 people crammed inside an unassuming room that included a fascinating assortment of decorations. On one wall hangs an old Ringling Brothers circus poster, which made me wonder if that is her commentary on the judicial system. There was also a mannequin head sitting atop a credenza, with a British barrister's white powdered wig. There were also some 40 year-old political ads and, here and there, small vases of artificial flowers. But the pièce de résistance would have to be her judicial robes, hanging on a wall.
All judges, even mini-judges, are required to wear judicial robes. But as Judge Devine pointed out, no one has insisted that they be any particular color. So Judge Devine has three robes. Yesterday's color was merlot, she said. I also noticed a more bluish robe and the traditional black.
Based on the courtroom and its decorations, it's hard to divine Judge Devine. She certainly appeared to be her own thinker.
|Frassetto has taken a break from teaching|
The principals at Allentown's three high schools and four middle schools all testified.Operations officer David Wildonger saw Frassetto at William Allen on 9/28 and 9/29, and could hear him on a bullhorn telling students they would get in no trouble for leaving. He had Facebook excerpts and even a video, but Judge Devine refused to accept the social media because she was unsure if it was really Frassetto. The video was definitely him, but she did not know if he posted it.
Another weakness is that students who had agreed to testify suddenly got cold feet. Finally, nothing directly tied Frassetto to the middle schools or Building 21.
* William Allen (3,000 students) - Principal Luke Shafnisky witnesses the walkouts that occurred on September 28 and 29, 2015.Altogether, 186 students participated. On the first day, they walked out after the second period. He could see Frassetto on the first day, exhorting students with a bullhorn. Some of them spilled ot intto the streets. On the second day, they sat on steps, which made it difficult for students who wanted to go to class. Students were booed as they walked in and the situation was "ripe for conflict."
Shafnisky spoke about the walkout with Frassetto several days before it occurred. He argued that the "best and safest place was in school, so children could receive their education and stay safe."
After the walkouts, Safinsky notified parents immediately, and some of them brought their truant children back..
* Dieruff (1,800 students). - Principal Susan Bacian said that on the first day of the walkout (9/28) she could see a group of about 20 young adults approach the school . A woman was speaking into a bullhorn, encouraging children to leave. About 50 students walked out that first day. Teachers stood by the exits, asking students to remain.
She never saw Frassetto at the walkouts but did see him at a football game,handing out fliers that encouraged kids to leave.
* Building 21 (140 students) - Principal Jeanine Mathesz said 22 of her students walked out, and she called the parents of every one of them. "We're responsible for those students, even if they leave the building," she explained.Some of the parents brought their children back to school. She conducted town halls prior to the walkout, but they were lured by the promise of Chinese food. She never saw Frassetto.
* South Mountain Middle School (990 students) - Principal Frank Derrick, who has some students who are only nine years old, testified that 47 students participated in the walkout He had people posted around the school, took the name of each student who left, and contacted parents. "A lot of them said they wanted Chinese food," he explained. He never saw Frassetto.
|This lino was taking kids from Raub Middle School|
* Trexler Middle School (840 students) - Principal Christine Piripabel said 31 students walked out the first day, followed by four on the second and none on the third. She did not see Frassetto at her school.
* Harrison Morton Middle School (812 students) - Principal Daria Custer said that 33 of her students participated in the walkout. She never saw Frassetto, but did see handouts in student lockers.
When Frassetto testified, he had a 14 page manifesto entitled "Recent Failures of Allentown School District Encouraged Peaceful Protest." In it, he explains that lousy test scores, low graduation rates, a lack of staff diversity, discrimination against minority administrators, mismanagement of school funds, sexual assaults and student abuse are what led to the walkouts.
None of those reasons matter to Judge Devine, who pointered out several times that it makes nio difference why students are encouraged to leave school.
Frassetto portrayed himself as only one of many participants in organizing the walkout. He indicated he was encouraged by three lehigh professors, three Kutztown University professors as well as the sororities and fraternities of the local colleges.
"Do you think students have a First Amendment right to express themselves by walking out of school in the middle of the day?" asked Freund.
He said he was prepared to accept the consequences for his actions, just like Mandela, Ghandi and Martin Luther King.
|Asteak is also a farmer|
With his Stetson on the table and his blue-colored glasses put away, Asteak was on the attack from the beginning to end. He probably set the Guinness record for most hearsay objections in one day, but amazingly, most of them were sustained. After one of these minor victories, Asteak asked that the testimony be "stricken from the record."
"We're not a court of record," answered Judge Devine.
"Then strike it from your memory," said Asteak.
Though there was absolutely nothing in the record to back him up, Asteak repeatedly insisted that the student walkout was forced on students because the school board had locked them out of a meeting and refused to listen to them.
"Mr. Asteak has done more testifying in this case than the witnesses," complained Freund.
'There's no First Amendment right to shout 'Fire!' in a crowded theatre,' argued Huerta.
"Is it OK to shout 'Fire' in a theatre that is on fire?" asked Asteak. "This school district is on fire and the kids have a right to throw some water on it."
"Mr. Frassetto will proudly wear the badge of criminal for giving the kids the right to speak up. These are Latinos, young men and women of color, who are being repressed. Is it criminal to seek help, to raise your voice?"Huerta, who is a Latino and said he struggled to make it, countered there is no first amendment right to crate a substantial disruption.
"At the end of the day, this is about students who want a better education. There's a way to make it, a way to do it, but it's not in the middle of a school day."Asteak mispronounced the name of one school district witness several times while Freund repeatedly mispronounced Frassetto's name. Each accused the other of playing rhetorical tricks and trying to annoy the witness by constantly butchering his name. .
I asked them both whether they were playing games after the hearing, and they both responded, "I don't know what you're talking about, O'Hara."
Judge Divine found Frassetto guilty on three counts for the two days at William Allen, where he was observed and one day at Deiruff, where he was spotted handing out flyers. Because nothing tied him directly to the middle schools or Building 21, she dismissed those charges.
Frassetto was only convicted on three counts of a summary offense, the legal equivalent of a parking ticket. Could This could affect his teaching certificate, but that seems unlikely.
Updated 3:40 pm: Who is Ed DeGrace (Disgrace)? - He's a Fed Ed goon I first caught here in 2008, posting attacks under an assumed name. He's responsible for laundering an $8,000 contribution to Fed Ed from a third party through Latinos for a New Lehigh Valley PAC, and then failing to file a finance report that would identify this contributor.
He remains a Fed Ed cheerleader.
"Hey Ed, you can count me among the cheerleaders. Allentown has come a long way and you've had your hands and your heart in her rebirth since ABC, DEDC- Allentown, etc. My beef is with ASD and we have a long way to go in the areas of education, income disparity and minority engagement toward building the new but, I'm sure you're aware of these continuing battles. Maybe some of the naysayers should consider running for Mayor, against you and your record. Statistics show that even a generic, recalcitrant, yelping opponent could muster 35%. Good job Ed. Still much to do but, keep building the new."
He attempted to muzzle me at a Kevin Dougherty rally last year, but failed.