Charter denies sending mailer on drug bust at public school

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BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) — A suburban Philadelphia charter school has denied sending out promotional mailers referencing a 2015 drug arrest at a nearby public high school.

The postcard shows a stock image of a student, head in hands, and a headline saying a teenager was caught by Liberty High School officials with more than $3,000 of heroin and cocaine. The mailer asks: "Why worry about this type of student at school? Come visit Arts Academy Charter School. Now enrolling grades 6-12."

The mailer also lists the Bethlehem school's return address.

Photos of the mailer have taken off on social media.

The school district on Sunday said Liberty High School has been "a respected pillar" in the Bethlehem community for nearly a century.

"Liberty's long history of accomplishments and deep traditions make it immune to scurrilous attacks," Superintendent Joseph Roy said.

The charter school on Saturday denied that it authorized the mailer.

"Whomever sent it is not a member of the staff or board at Innovative Arts," the school said in a Facebook post.

In response to comments, the school said it has reached its enrollment goal and doesn't need more students.

Kelly Bauer, the charter school's board president, said on Facebook that its attorney was investigating.

The state's auditor general said in a statement Monday that his office has contacted the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General to urge a full investigation into the origin and content of the advertising.

"I will also refer this matter for investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, which has strict guidelines for charter school advertising," said Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. He said he would ask a number of state and federal agencies to look into the mailer, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; U.S. Department of Justice; U.S. Department of Education; Pennsylvania Department of Education; and the state Office of Attorney General."

The school's attorney, Dan Fennick, said the board is "appalled by the mailer" and echoed sentiments that it wasn't authorized by the school.

Loraine Petrillo, CEO of the charter school, has said that an advertisement from an anonymous individual that appeared in The Morning Call this month also wasn't authorized by the school.

That advertisement said the charter school was free, prompting a response from Bethlehem Area School Board member Dean Donaher, who said charter schools are funded through public tax money taken from students' home districts.

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