By: Caroline Machiraju
Camp Hill, Pa. – Camp Hill, the idyllic West Shore suburb, with its Mr. Rogers-esque neighborhood feel, has a hot political divide, cutting straight through it: with half of its voters registered Republican; and the other half: Democrat.
That makes for a tense lead-up to the Nov. 2 election. But, it just got dicier after a mysterious campaign letter, purported to be from a GOP supporter, surfaced on social media Wednesday.
The letter, dated Oct. 8, was shared by its addressee, Megan Yost, a Democrat supporter, on Facebook this past Wednesday. Yost wrote, “It’s riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, and …false statements about the school district’s plans and the candidates’ platforms,” she said, referencing the borough’s hotly contested school board race.
The letter was pictured in the post; and it targets three Democrat school board candidates: Karen Mallah, Joscelyon Buchs and Melanie Gurgiolo. The anonymous author listed four bullet-point concerns they had with the aforementioned candidates’ “radical agenda.”
The post quickly garnered dozens of reactions and comments; and within 24 hours, the post spurred an opinion-based news piece, in Pennsylvania Capital Star, where reporter (& borough resident) John Micek compounded the incident, adding that the letter “landed in mailboxes across Camp Hill Borough.”
As of this writing, nobody else in the borough has chimed in to Yost’s post that they received a similar letter, in spite of the social media reach the post generated, so it’s unclear how many mailboxes this letter “landed in,” as Micek has alluded.
In Micek’s opinion piece – that turned Yost’s anonymous letter into a firestorm – Micek validated Yost’s concerns: that issues mentioned in the letter are baseless, issues like CRT-related curriculum proposals and transgender ideology changes.
Micek’s opinion, however, isn’t shared by all. Several concerned parents have been attending recent school board meetings, having researched the agenda-driven meetings, which were coordinated with a rogue group of activist parents – one of them being Mallah.
Dating back to September 2020, Mallah and others quietly inculcated themselves with the Board’s Curriculum Committee, ultimately forming themselves (and some board members and staff) into the controversial “Equity Advocacy Council.”
Since learning about the Council this past Spring, parents have been firing off their objections to the Council’s proposals, hinted in their meeting minutes (which have been made available on the districts website, under pressure from parents).
And if the meeting notes weren’t enough, some incidents have already surfaced this school year, validating some of the parents concerns: like a digital personal-pronoun form, presented to Camp Hill Middle School students (it has reportedly since been removed); or the middle school art class project where students were asked their political identity. At the elementary level, students reported to some parents they felt uncomfortable when they were asked, in a computer program, if they were male, female or – non-binary. The children, unsure of what that meant, prompted a classroom discussion on the term, led by the teacher.
Marc Scaringi, a lawyer and parent of four children in the district, has been consistently outspoken, often citing the racist ideology to which these pro-CRT activists subscribe. His arguments have been heavy on sound evidence, reasoning – and reaction, documented on his Facebook posts. (Scaringi issued a full-statement on the controversy surrounding the letter to Harrisburg100 this morning.)
As a result of these concerned parents’ efforts, the District suspended the Council in July, when the controversysurrounding it rose to questioning the illegitimate and seemingly backdoor way it organized.
The District, however, has since put forward a rebranded version of the Council, named the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I). Its purpose? To keep Camp Hill School District School Board and administration informed regarding community opinion on issues relating to “diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Reaction to the letter was swift from GOP candidates, who felt implicated; and the named Democrat candidates targeted in the letter.
Democrat school board candidate Mallah stated: “I invite you to do as this letter’s anonymous author says … please contact me and ask me specifically if I will either propose or support any of these changes in the school district.”
Democrat Joscelyon Buchs also running for school board stated: “I am deeply disappointed and saddened by the slanderous, grossly inaccurate, and divisive nature of the entire letter.”
Fellow Democrat board candidate and incumbent Melanie Gurgiolo stated: “I find this letter to be a collection of fear-mongering talking points that mischaracterizes both my candidacy and my record.”
Harrisburg100 has reached out to Mallah, Buchs and Gurgiolo for their response on the concerns raised in the letter.
Pete Regan, a GOP school board candidate, said: “The voters of Camp Hill are quite capable of researching candidates without receiving anonymous, unattributed material.”
David LaTorre, running on the Republican school board ticket,wrote: “The person or people who wrote this cowardly, anonymous letter only achieved one thing: They embarrassed themselves.”
LaTorre references what remains the million-dollar question: who wrote the letter?
Borough police had no knowledge about the letter, when questioned for this article; but also added that it’s nothing that would trigger an investigation, at this point.
The other mystery that voters must solve is what the District is intent on accomplishing under the banner of “diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Candidates word’s must be weighed against their actions – which haven’t always been on full display in sunny Camp Hill, Pa.
(Disclosure: Caroline Machiraju is a borough resident, who has two children in the District.)