Bethel group withdraws court petition to remove school board members

Bethel High School

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Bethel High School

School district has had tense fight over policies for transgender students; petition could be re-filed.

Petitions seeking the removal of three Bethel Local school board members were dismissed in a Miami County court, with the stipulation that the action could be re-filed.

Notice of the dismissal of the complaint seeking removal of board members Danny Elam Jr. and Lori Sebastian, plus board President Lydda Mansfield was filed Friday in Common Pleas Court by attorney Michael W. Sandner of Dayton.

Sandner filed the notice of dismissal the same day he entered an appearance in the court as the attorney on behalf of petitioners Donna J. Beam and others defined as residents of Bethel Twp., Miami County, and the Bethel Local Schools District.

The filing for removal in May came after several months of district controversy over transgender students and restroom accessibility, including heated public board meetings.

“We are petitioning to remove Lydda Mansfield, Lori Sebastian, and Danny Elam from the school board for neglecting their duty to ensure all children at Bethel are safe,” the resident group wrote on its website.

The petition for removal claimed the board members failed to comply with the Ohio Sunshine Law and allegedly discussed issues not proper for consideration in an executive session.

The removal complaint alleged the board members had:

** Jointly and/or individually, willfully and flagrantly exercised authority or power not authorized by law;

** Refused or willfully neglected to enforce the law and perform official duties imposed on them by law;

** Exceeded the scope of their responsibilities and/or authority.

The board members had not filed responses to the allegations.

An evidentiary hearing in the case had been scheduled for Monday before Judge Jeannine Pratt, but was not held, given the dismissal.

The district’s superintendent, Justin Firks, has filed his resignation, effective July 31. He cited the controversy in his resignation. He will become a principal in the Elida school district, near Lima. The Bethel board of education had a special meeting scheduled Monday evening to hire an interim superintendent.

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