On Monday, October 25, 2021, the Delaware Valley Journal posted a story about alleged inappropriate conduct by a public education official towards female children of minor age under the same said official’s authority. How many times have we heard about this? How many times have we thought, ‘what is wrong with people today?’ How many times have we hoped it would never hit us in our own backyard?
Well, the residents, parents, teachers and students of the Norristown Area School District (NASD) were just hit with such a revelation. We learned that a female student (now a former student) at the Norristown Area High School, where students ages 14 to 17 attend, was inappropriately contacted by the school board president, Shae Ashe.
After the post went public, more students came forward to share their stories of how school board President Mr. Ashe had made them “uncomfortable” by his “inappropriate” conduct towards them while at several different school district locations. Among them were the Montgomery County OIC and at Norristown Area High School. Several parents and students began to inquire and question if children known to them had been approached and possibly violated. As word of this story spread, there was the seeming circling of the wagons to protect the integrity of the honest and hard-working educators that were already struggling with the protocols and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of course, whenever such a charge surfaces, the instinctive thing to do is deflect the attack by claiming the accusations are baseless because of the ongoing political election campaigns. At first, I too believed Mr. Ashe’s spokesperson attorney when he said this was “political.”
However, after reading the comments from the additional victims and how his behavior towards their persons made them feel, I came to the conclusion it was time for the school board to call an emergency session and take appropriate action to separate the questionable conduct of Mr. Ashe from the children of our public educational institution and remove him from the board.
We have a lot going on right now in our district. We need our kids, our future voters, our future leaders to feel safe coming to our schools, supported by our taxes. Right now, parents feel very uncomfortable sending their children to a school where Shae Ashe is the leader and has access to attempt to groom other kids. Sexual misconduct was publicly condemned by Mr. Ashe before; did he not believe he should be held to the same standard?
Mr. Ashe works at a lot of places that have young children in attendance. The Montgomery County OIC, the Norristown Project and Senator Amanda Cappelletti district office as her scheduler. He needs to be removed from them all until they make sure he hasn’t done this at any of those alternate locations. At the recent school board meeting, many citizens (including myself) commented on our displeasure that such conduct occurred and why Mr. Ashe was absent.
Yes, it was gratifying to learn that Senator Cappelletti suspended Mr. Ashe pending the outcome of a potential investigation. Still, the tax-paying citizens, parents and guardians wanted to know what the Norristown Area School Board would do. Sadly, it was reported that they were unable to do anything against an “elected” official. There was some satisfaction the next day, learning that Mr. Ashe resigned as board president and member of the NASD. However, an investigation still needs to be officially initiated.
Now, I want to direct my comments and advice to all of the young girls as well as any young person to understand you ARE valued and there are steps you and your parents or guardians can take. To those of you that said something on Facebook and Instagram, I BELIEVE YOU. If you need to talk to someone, you can contact the following agencies: Mission Kids at (484) 687-2990; Pennsylvania Childline at (800) 932-0313; Montgomery County Office of Children & Youth at (610) 278-5800.
If you or someone you know was a victim of suspected abuse by ANY adult that made you feel uncomfortable or uneasy, please contact these agencies. As a reminder, all teachers and staff of the school district are “mandated reporters” by state law to make sure that any matter expressed to them must be transmitted to appropriate authorities for protection services to be engaged.
Please report your suspicions to the proper authorities as immediately as you can. You might not have any idea how precious you are to us as a group of communities, but all of society owes you OUR best efforts to make sure your lives are safe. You can grow into the clear-thinking human being that you need to be so our society can be the best that it needs to be. Parents, guardians: please continue to do all possible to nurture and encourage the children among you, so they KNOW that the reported conduct of Mr. Ashe or any adult is NOT OK and they have the right to be protected and feel safe. Don’t attempt to conduct your own investigation. It is the role of appropriate authorities as well as local law enforcement to investigate any suspicions of abuse. I hope that we all can learn to always do our best for the most vulnerable among us.
Editor’s Note: Shae Ashe, through his lawyer, has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.