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East Penn School Board director Julian Stolz under fire

By Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: Oct 14 2013 04:00:17 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 15 2013 12:23:40 PM CDT

Parents want school board member out

EMMAUS, Pa. -

Four people stood before the East Penn School Board Monday night to demand the resignation of school board member Julian Stolz.

Some of them looked directly at 25-year-old Stolz when they called on him to step down.

One man called him a creep, a monster, a pervert and a sexual predator.

At the meeting, Stolz admitted that five years ago -- when he was 20 and serving on the school board -- he dated a 15-year-old Emmaus High School student.

He said he dated her for four months “with the full consent of her parents.” He described the relationship as “romantic” but not sexual. He broke up with her because he was on the school board.

Stolz said his only error of judgment was not resigning from the school board five years ago “to be with her rather than worrying about the political consequences at that time -- the impropriety of being a school board director.”

He said he did not resign then because he had political aspirations.

He won’t resign now because “I’m not doing anything wrong.”

He said since May he again is dating the same female, now 20, whom he described as his fiancée.

At the meeting, Stolz also acknowledged that until last year, when he was 24, he maintained an account on a website for teenagers called Teenspot.com.

“It was wrong to maintain it as long as I did,” said Stolz after the board meeting. “But I’ve not been on it for a year.” He said the only people from that site that he had any “real live contact with” were over age 18.

As Stolz explained himself to the school board, he was interrupted by people in the audience shouting “you lie” and “resign now” until school board president Charles Ballard admonished them to remain quiet.

When the meeting ended, those calling for Stolz to resign got into heated argument with him, until Superintendent Thomas Seidenberger broke it up.

Although he is not seeking re-election this year, Stolz blamed the controversy on unnamed political opponents “who sat on it until right now” in order to influence next month’s school board elections.

One of the women told him she wants him to resign because she is a concerned parent, adding that concern has nothing to with politics. The other three people addressing the board also said they were not politically motivated to call on Stolz to step down.

At the end of the meeting, Stolz insisted he will not resign, but also said he will not run for school board when his current term ends in 2015.

Ballard, the board president, said he has no opinion regarding whether Stolz should resign. “This is a matter between Mr. Stolz and his conscience.”

It’s not clear what action, if any, the school board can or will take to force Stolz out or to censure him.

Just before the meeting ended, a barely audible Stolz apologized, but only to his fellow board members, for “the three-ring circus” generated by publicity about his past.

Stolz said “online personalities have literally stalked my every online move going back over a decade.”

Parents demand Stolz quit

Speaking directly to Stolz, Hillary Smith of Lower Macungie Township accused him of disgusting behavior and said: “Why don’t you do the right thing for once and resign and spare the school district any further embarrassment?”

Jessica Hughes of Lower Macungie, an East Penn “parent and taxpayer,” said Stolz openly admitted in one of his recent blog postings “to numerous behaviors that I, as well as others, would deem as inappropriate and inexcusable for a professional in a leadership position such as a school board member.”

Kevin Kelly of Emmaus, a dad with two daughters, said: “It’s disturbing to me to think that a sitting school board member here would be involved with a school student, whether it’s sexual or not. He should be an example for our community.”

Hughes said Stolz admitted contacting minor girls on Teenspot as recently as last year.

“He has also admitted to other questionable interactions with minors while he was a sitting school board member, as late as March of last year,” echoed Smith.

Hughes said Stolz did not close his Teenspot account until others found out about it and he realized it presented a potential risk to his political career.

Hughes said Stolz has tried to make jokes and poke fun at the situation. For example, a shirtless picture of himself was posted on Teenspot. Stolz recently wrote on his blog: “Why I ever thought a shirtless picture was a good idea, I'm not sure (Ew!)”

And he called Monday's school board meeting, where he knew people would call for his resignation, “a party.”

“We find this deeply disturbing and we are not laughing,” Hughes told the school board.

Justin Burkhardt of Salisbury Township, who said his cousins recently graduated from Emmaus High School, told the board Stolz had a second profile on the Teenspot website, which was terminated for improper behavior.

“Do not shake your head at me,” Burkhardt told Stolz. “Yet you said you were doing nothing wrong. I guarantee if the police would investigate this matter they would find something wrong. I hope the police investigate you (and) I hope you get the help you clearly need.”

Smith, who has three children in the district, doesn’t know if Stolz broke any laws, saying that is a matter for law enforcement and a court to determine. But she told the school board: “I am requesting that the superintendent ensure that a full investigation is conducted by whatever law enforcement agencies are appropriate.”

After the meeting, Stolz said if people have evidence that he has been involved in criminal activity, they should report it to the police.

Burkhardt called Stolz’s actions disgusting and immoral and called him a creep, pervert, monster and sexual predator.

He claimed Stolz had contact with a 13-year-old girl on Teenspot. “How is that acceptable at all?”

Burkhardt said the only positive to come from the controversy is that Stolz’s political career is over. “You’ll never hold office again, buddy, and for that I’m happy.”

Call for board action

Smith said East Penn School District has a policy of non-tolerance regarding improper conduct toward its students.

She said the board should vote to remove Stolz if he refuses to resign.

“His actions of pursuing a relationship with a minor were a gross neglect of his duties as a school board director,” said Smith. “And his actions show he is not morally capable of the judgment necessary to deal with sensitive matters regarding improper conduct with students.

“Having someone on the school board who thinks there is nothing wrong with an adult in authority dating a student can bring into question the entire school district’s ability to act in these matters.”

Smith said the school board may be exposed to lawsuits if Stolz remains on it and the board does nothing.

Stolz, a conservative Republican, calls himself “a bit of a lightning rod” on the school board who will continue to take strong stands. He considers himself an advocate for district taxpayers, but no friend of teachers unions.

Stolz frequently finds himself in bitter public arguments with the board president and vice president, also both Republicans. And, along with one or two like-minded colleagues, Stolz often is outvoted by the board majority.

None of the other eight school board members commented on demands that Stolz retire, or his response to those demands, during Monday’s meeting.

Action at next meeting?

What, if anything, the school board will do about Stolz may not be known until its next meeting on Oct. 28.

The school board president came to Monday’s meeting armed with a memorandum he wrote that states Pennsylvania has no legal mechanism to recall board members by voter request.

The memo states Pennsylvania’s constitution authorizes state courts to remove an elected official “upon criminal conviction of an infamous crime, misbehavior in office or reasonable cause.” Anyone who wants a school board member removed for those reasons must file a formal complaint with the state governor, attorney general or Senate. Or lawsuits could be filed in court.

After the meeting, Ballard said he has no idea if anyone on the school board will initiate action to censure Stolz.

He said no board members have talked to him about taking any disciplinary action against Stolz, adding they will have to make a motion if they feel such action is necessary.

The board president said the issue is very difficult— “personal liberties and free speech and all kinds of other things are mixed up in this.”

Ballard warned: “By injecting itself into the matter, the board could expose itself to legal liability. It has to be approached very, very carefully.”

The Stolz issue also is hard for the board to address “because it is not directly attributable to his board service,” said Ballard. He added the board never adopted a policy to address such an issue, because no one imagined it would ever come up.

Ballard’s memorandum, which he gave to reporters after the meeting, states Robert’s Rules of Order “has procedures to discipline members that engage in conduct that is injurious to the organization or its purposes.”

Ballard said his understanding is Robert’s Rules prohibits him, as board president, from censuring Stolz or even introducing a motion to do so. The memo states “only the governing body itself can officially censure a member. A motion to censure is required, with a second.” It also states the member being censured may come to his own defense during the debate but cannot vote on the motion.

Second time Stolz told to resign

This is the second time this year that parents have demanded Stolz resign from the school board.

In March, East Penn resident Lou Schuler said Stolz should resign over a controversial posting on Twitter.

When another man tweeted: “There is nothing more brain rotting than public schools. God, I pity the proletariat for having to send their inferior (children) to them.”

Stolz replied on Twitter by writing: “As a school board director, I wish I could disagree. As a sentient being, I cannot.”