Bethel residents file court petition to remove school board members

Bethel High School

Combined ShapeCaption
Bethel High School

District has had tense debate over transgender student policies; superintendent just resigned

A complaint filed in Miami County Common Pleas Court seeks the removal of three Bethel Local Schools Board of Education members, accusing them of gross neglect of duty, misfeasance and malfeasance and/or nonfeasance of duty.

The complaint was filed Thursday by Donna J. Beam and others, residents of Bethel Twp., Miami County. The action seeks the removal of board President Lydda Mansfield and members Lori Sebastian and Danny Elam Jr.

The filing comes 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 group wrote on its website. It also said it had more than 600 signatures on petitions seeking the removal.

The school board members could not be reached for comment Friday.

District Superintendent Justin Firks notified the board May 19 that he was resigning effective at the end of his contract July 31. Firks said in a letter that the sacrifices being required went beyond the expected parameters of the superintendent job.

“It has been a priority over the last seven years as a superintendent of schools to make decisions that are in the best interest of the students and staff,” Firks said in the letter. “Being a superintendent, historically, has been seen as a profession of sacrifice. However, sacrificing health, family, dignity and your professional reputation should not be a part of the job.”

Combined ShapeCaption
Students participate in the groundbreaking for the new Bethel Elementary School in Miami County's Bethel Twp. CONTRIBUTED

Students participate in the groundbreaking for the new Bethel Elementary School in Miami County's Bethel Twp. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Students participate in the groundbreaking for the new Bethel Elementary School in Miami County's Bethel Twp. CONTRIBUTED

In the removal complaint, the board members are accused of failing to comply with the Ohio Sunshine Law, allegedly discussing matters falling outside the scope of reasons stated in a motion to have a closed discussion, and discussing issues not proper for consideration in an executive session.

The removal complaint alleges the board members have:

- 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 complaint was assigned to Judge Jeannine Pratt.

** Tipp City: Also pending in Common Pleas Court is a removal effort filed by a citizens group in neighboring Tipp City, against Tipp City Exempted Village Schools Board of Education members Theresa Dunaway and Anne Zakkour.

About the Author