Dayton, OHSAA in war of words after Dunbar legal victory

The fight between Dayton Public Schools and the Ohio High School Athletic Association didn’t end with Dunbar’s win in a Montgomery County Common Pleas courtroom Tuesday.

On Wednesday, an OHSAA official said extreme penalties are still possible for the overall Dunbar High School athletic program, and acting DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli ripped OHSAA for being “out to get” DPS.

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A judge on Tuesday put Dunbar’s boys basketball team back into the postseason tournament, ruling that OHSAA made a mistake in removing the team without reliable and substantial evidence that a player was ineligible.

OHSAA decided not to appeal, but spokesman Tim Stried said Wednesday that serious penalties, up to cancellation of OHSAA membership, are still possible for Dunbar because of how DPS leadership handled the aftermath of a Jan. 10 melee at a junior varsity basketball game.

Lolli quickly fired back.

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“Dayton Public Schools is not going to roll over and play dead because they threatened to throw us out of the OHSAA,” she said. “There are courts that will support DPS because we did nothing wrong at the varsity level. Punish me at the JV level if you’re going to punish me.”

All DPS schools were already on a three-year OHSAA probation because Dunbar’s varsity football team in 2016 used an ineligible player, then briefly tried to lose a game on purpose, on DPS employees’ instructions, to arrange a certain playoff outcome.

“What we have are two incidents in the past 15 months that are very serious violations, and we owe it to our member schools to pursue those to the full extent of the bylaws,” Stried said.

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Stried also pointed to the court testimony of Dunbar athletic director Quiona Boffman, who said it was Lolli’s decision not to suspend those JV players who left the bench during the Jan. 10 fight. Stried called that “unbelievable,” making reference to “a lack of administrative responsibility from the highest levels of Dayton Public Schools.”

Lolli on Wednesday ripped the OHSAA for making statements like that without doing research. She said Boffman was wrong in her testimony, adding that she only played a role in setting punishments for players who threw punches in the fight.

“If the OHSAA believes that to be true, and they didn’t call me to verify one way or another, that’s their fault,” Lolli said. “And the adults who did not follow through with what they were supposed to do have been punished. Did the OHSAA ask me that? Did they ask me what stance I took? No, they did not. They just accused me of not taking responsibility for it. That’s inappropriate. They are picking at DPS.”

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Lolli provided this newspaper an email that she sent to the Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall principals on Jan. 11, ruling that four players (two from each team) would be suspended for six games and face six-day in-school suspensions for fighting. The email makes no mention either way about players who left the bench or penalties they would face.

Lolli said that’s because the discipline meeting held by five administrators dealt only with the most serious conduct of fighting. Lolli said a wild fight like the one that occurred Jan. 10 demands the superintendent’s attention, but she expected school building leaders to handle the lesser “leaving the bench” infractions.

Lolli acknowledged that Dunbar’s JV team will have to forfeit all games it won after Jan. 10, because each game included ineligible players – athletes who left the bench Jan. 10 but were never suspended.

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Lolli would not confirm which DPS employees had been punished or how severely. This news organization filed a public records request for that discipline data last Friday and was told Wednesday by an attorney representing the district that it would be provided by the end of this week.

“(OHSAA) has never called me to ask me what I did about the adults who failed to do anything about the students who left the bench,” Lolli said. “You have, but OHSAA never asked me.”

Stried said OHSAA will review the Dunbar issues after the state basketball tournament ends later this month.

“We are not out to get Dunbar or Dayton Public Schools. Absolutely not,” he said. “We do not enjoy or seek to take any team out of a tournament.”

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