When a group of alumni saw allegations surface on Twitter last week over Paul VI High School’s handling of discipline and other issues, they were deeply troubled and wanted to know more.
They came together as a group, and say they want to start a dialogue with the school and help the community heal, a spokesperson for them said Tuesday.
Kevin MacKenzie, a 2015 graduate of the Haddon Township school and spokesperson for the alumni, said he was heartened to see the school send a letter to the community Monday explaining discipline meted out to several students involved in a social media exchange in September.
“It was encouraging to see they sought to offer clarity to the community,” he said.
The issue arose last week when @xmeganadams posted on Twitter that the school had given students a slap on the wrist for what amounted to a rape threat. Others chimed in with concerns about the school.
Michael Chambers, president of Paul VI, told The Inquirer that police investigated the incident and decided not to charge the students, though Paul VI disciplined them for violating school policy regarding harassment and threats.
In the letter to the community Monday, Chambers and principal Sister Marianne McCann further elaborated on the incident, which occurred in September. They said three students made threatening statements on social media regarding two other students, and those statements were discovered by the parents of the students who were threatened. Those parents reported the incident to police and the school, they wrote.
Discipline of the students is “ongoing” and “multitiered” as laid out in the student handbook, they wrote. Chambers declined in an interview earlier this week to specify the discipline. The students also “received anti-intimidation and sexual harassment education,” the school leaders wrote.
At least two of the three students disciplined were on the football team.
MacKenzie, 23, of Gloucester County, said he was pleased to see that authorities had been involved in investigating the case.
“That was a really powerful thing for people to learn,” he said.
He also said he wanted to make clear that the alumni group was not asserting that the allegations in the social media posts were true, or making allegations about the school. Members of the group were alarmed to see the allegations and want to work with the school in fostering dialogue among students, alumni, and families and seeking clarity on some of the complaints, he said.
“Many of us care very deeply about the school,” he said, adding that teachers he had there transformed his life.
The group would like to see a dialogue maintained with the school community, he said, and possible changes to the student code of conduct and handbook. The school reported that it followed its student handbook in the case of the social media exchange.
Also, MacKenzie said, the group would like to see “a process of healing for those who have come forward to share their stories.”
Asked about the group’s intentions, Chambers, the school president, said: “Paul VI is and always has been open to speaking with alumni. Our student handbook is modified, revised, and approved annually.”