Charter school teacher hit with multiple corruption charges for leading Allentown student walkout
ALLENTOWN — The charter school teacher who encouraged hundreds of students to walk out of Allentown School District schools, claiming the district is failing minority students, has been charged with corrupting youth.
Michael Frassetto is facing at least 38 charges of corruption of minors for a student walkout that occurred Sept. 28. The charges are summary offenses, similar to criminal mischief. People accused receive citations in the mail, and those found guilty at a summary trial before a district judge typically face fines.
"Encouraging Allentown School District students to commit truancy by walking out of school during normal school hours is an unlawful disruption of the students' educational process," the district said in a statement released Friday.
"While the Allentown School District supports freedom of expression, the district cannot condone actions in violation of the law," it said. "Therefore, the district's high school and middle school administrators have taken legal action to hold the organizer, Michael Frassetto, responsible for his actions."
The district would not comment further. Frassetto, 29, did not return messages for comment.
The charges were filed in the last 10 days at various district courts in Allentown. Principals from seven Allentown schools where students left, including Allen High Principal Luke Shafnisky and Trexler Middle School Principal Christine Piripavel, gave sworn statements, according to district solicitor John Freund. He would not comment further.
Frassetto is no longer teaching at the Medical Academy Charter School, the Catasauqua school's CEO, Jose Rosado, said Friday, although he is still employed.
Rosado said the charter school's board of trustees will discuss Frassetto's employment at a meeting Tuesday. Rosado would not say how long Frassetto has been out of a classroom or why he is no longer teaching.
Frassetto, a Parkland High School graduate, believes the district doesn't care about its minority students.
He raised the ire of school officials as well as Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin for leading a series of protests and media campaigns involving students who live in Allentown and either attend Allentown schools or public charter schools.
Frassetto and the students have called for Allentown Superintendent Russ Mayo's resignation, a summer employment program and a representative on the school board who is not elected but is chosen by the students
On Sept. 24, Frassetto and a group of students went to an Allentown School Board meeting, where they banged on glass and doors after being denied access. The district claimed the meeting room would have been too crowded to meet fire codes.
On Sept. 28, he led hundreds of students on a walkout to Allentown's statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King for what was to be a day of protest that included lessons. Some students were driven to the statue in a limo.
As students marched and gathered at the statue, Frassetto and some students chanted "They don't care," and "We young. We strong. We marching all night long," but many students left the protest or just stood around in small groups.
On the day of the walkout, Frassetto called the teenagers the "most courageous students in the entire country."
Before the walkout began, he posted a video telling students to trust him that they would not get in trouble.
But attending school is mandated by law. The district gave those who walked out unexcused absences. Under the district's code of conduct, an unexcused absence is a Level II minor offense. Such offenses also include bullying, tardiness, excessive talking and loitering.
Allentown School District previously said 400 of its middle and high school students walked out Sept. 28 and another 100 left the next day. Students who walked out included those attending Building 21, the district's new experimental high school.
On Nov. 17, Martin called Frassetto a "hindrance" for his involvement in the arrest of seven teens from the Medical Academy Charter School for allegedly jumping an Allentown police officer trying to break up an after-school fight Nov. 13 in south Allentown.
Frassetto and some of the juveniles claimed in a news segment that aired Nov. 16 on WFMZ-TV that police used excessive force during those arrests. As proof, he posted an edited video on his Facebook page.
At a news conference where he called for tougher laws against juveniles who use violence against police officers, Martin vented his frustration with Frassetto.
Raising his voice, Martin said: "Here's a man who purports to be a teacher and he's encouraging kids to commit truancy back in September. Had I had the ability, I would have charged him with something then. I don't unfortunately have the ability under the law to charge him."
On the day of the news conference, Frassetto wouldn't address Martin's comments, saying he hadn't directly heard what the district attorney said.
Asked to comment on Martin's characterization of Frassetto, Mayo said he had been concerned by Frassetto's influence on students.
"I'm not getting an impression by his appearances that he's having a positive influence on students," Mayo said.
Frassetto twice applied for positions with the Allentown School District but was turned down. Before that, he taught at the Roberto Clemente Charter School, but said his contract was not renewed for the current school year.