By Mark Gilger , Staff Writer
On Monday morning, Mount Carmel Area Superintendent Richard Beierschmitt said physical education teacher Gingie Britton and high school nurse Ruth Gregory have not been disciplined thus far in connection with the March 9 incident.
Mount Carmel Township Supervisor Edward Sebastian also confirmed no disciplinary action has been taken yet against Chief of Police Donald Geary and Cpl. Brian Hollenbush, who were serving as school resource officers when they allegedly ordered Britton and Gregory to strip-search six female students in a closet near the gym area after being informed that $27 had been stolen from someone in the gym class.
Sebastian said the strip-search incident will be discussed by supervisors during a special meeting at 5 p.m. today.
Beierschmitt said a special school board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday to employ hall monitors/security personnel in the school district. Retired Mount Carmel Chief of Police Larry Joyce began providing security at the high school Monday on a temporary basis and is expected to be hired as one of the hall monitors/security personnel at the special meeting.
On Thursday night, at their monthly meeting, members of Mount Carmel Area School Board unanimously voted to discontinue the school resource officer program immediately. That action was preceded by a 20-minute executive session and complaints from the parents of a high school student who was among six girls strip-searched during the late morning gym class.
Board members said the decision to discontinue the school resource officer program was primarily prompted by the strip-search, but also was based on other incidents involving police at the high school.
At last week's school board meeting, Ed and Katherine Dusendschine of Kulpmont said they were seeking justice against the people responsible for humiliating their daughter and plan to file a lawsuit against everyone involved.
After a student claimed $27 had been stolen during the gym class, Mr. Dusendschine said his daughter, who is a junior, and five other girls in the class were ordered into a closet by Geary and Hollenbush. Geary was filling in for another police officer who normally serves as a school resource officer.
At the direction of the officers, Dusendschine said Britton and Gregory conducted individual strip-searches on the six girls inside a closet. He said his daughter was ordered to remove her shoes, socks and pants. She said the search also involved checking for the money under her daughter's bra and inside her purse.
Dusendschine said no money was ever found as a result of the searches and it is unknown if any money was actually stolen.
"My daughter wasn't advised of her constitutional rights, and what was done to her and the other students is not right," he said.
"This is shocking, and I'm appalled that something like this could happen and nobody was ever punished," he added. "None of these students deserved to be subjected to this type of behavior."
Dusendschine, a corrections officer at a federal prison, said the only time school district personnel can conduct a strip-search is for suspicion of drugs or weapons violations.
"Those two cops stepped over their authority and the teacher and nurse who conducted the searches should have notified their supervisors before taking action," Dusendschine said.
"I don't want this incident to be swept under the rug and the individuals responsible for this terrible incident to be given a slap on the wrist," he added. "I am here to seek justice for our daughter and I want everyone involved in this incident to get fired."
Dusendschine, who previously discussed the issue with school district administrators, Mount Carmel Township police and supervisors, school board President Dennis Hepler and solicitor Edward Greco, said he plans to file a civil suit against the school district and Mount Carmel Township police.