LEBANON, Pa. (CBS Local) – A Pennsylvania school district is under fire for a policy that allegedly requires students to smile when walking in school hallways.
The Northern Lebanon School District has reportedly instituted a rule that forces all of their students to keep a smile on their faces or they’ll be sent to speak with school officials.
“If you don’t (smile) you get called to the office or down to see your guidance counselor,” the mother of 15-year-old Julianna Gundrum told the Lebanon Daily News. “You have to talk about your problems then. You have to or you get detention.”
Jean Gundrum told reporters she has pulled her daughter out of school because of the odd mandate. Other local parents and some district teachers claim school officials are so focused on this unwritten smiling rule that they have ignored other issues such as bullying and inappropriate behavior by staff.
One teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Daily News that Assistant High School Principal Benjamin Wenger has been accused of throwing a sex toy around with the district’s high school and middle school principals during school hours in their office.
Teachers allege that Wenger has been one of the biggest enforcers of the smiling policy while ignoring his own questionable actions. At a May 8 school board meeting, parent Wendy Gerber claimed that students revealed that the sex toy had been used in hazing rituals by children at the school.
One parent in the school district, Arlo Miller, protested the local school board’s decision to not discipline the three educators during the meeting. Miller compared the ruling to recent assault cover-ups at universities like Penn State.
Gundrum also alleges that the district failed to investigate acts of bullying against her other daughter, Adreanna. The mother claims the 14-year-old was attacked by fellow students and school officials never stepped in to help.
“Principal Hassler actually told me that maybe I need to raise my children better and that she felt my daughter was the bully,” Gundrum added.
Northern Lebanon, which is required by state law to enforce anti-bullying policies, pushed back against the wave of allegations.
“We fully investigate every report of bullying,” Superintendent Erik Bentzel said, via the Daily News. “But, we can’t tell (both sets of parents) about the consequences – I can’t talk to (a parent) about another (parent’s) child.”
Northern Lebanon officials did not explain what the purpose of the smiling policy was or what it is supposed to achieve.