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Allentown school board hears $1.4M middle school violence prevention plan | Lehigh Valley Regional News | #schoolsaftey

ALLENTOWN, Pa. At its bimonthly meeting Thursday night, the Allentown Board of School Directors was presented with an initiative designed to drastically reduce violent incidents among its middle school population. 

The plan, known as the “Youth Violence Prevention Project,” is a joint effort among the district, Valley Youth House, Justice Collaborative, Shanthi Project, United Way, and Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley to provide behavioral health services to at-risk students. 

If approved, the plan will authorize $1,386,389 in total funding to enact this program at Allentown’s Raub Middle School over the next two years, according to district Director of Student Services Tiffany Polek.

The district has applied for a $1.2 million grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to help cover the cost, Polek said. 

Raub Middle School — a majority-minority school where more than 80% of students are Hispanic or Black — was chosen largely because of the increase in violent incidents during the 2022-23 school year. Though the school has just 961 students, more than 8,000 disciplinary infractions and nearly 500 total out-of-school suspensions occurred this year, according to Raub Principal José Delgado. 

According to Polek, the first year of the plan would focus on building “compassion resilience” among both students and the professionals, while the second year would begin to integrate “mindfulness” practices into classrooms in hopes of creating a less violent learning environment. 

Board member Phoebe Harris expressed concern about United Way’s commitment to diversity, since the group would provide counselors and social workers under the plan. Ensuring students would be able to speak to professionals who understand their ethnic/cultural backgrounds should be a top priority when addressing mental health issues and crisis prevention, Harris said.  

The board voted to advance the plan for a potential vote at its next meeting on Thursday, June 22. 

New policies

The Allentown School District is looking to create eight pre-K classes and is considering changing the cutoff birthdates for kindergarten and first grade.

Before the presentation, the board voted to advance two policy initiatives upon their first readings to the public. The board will also vote on these initiatives June 22. 

If passed, Policy 201 would change the cutoff birth date for preschool and kindergarten registration from Sept. 1 to Feb. 1 of the following year

Policy 707, which was last revised in 1998, would amend the rules for organizations unaffiliated with the district to use district-owned facilities.

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