Fairborn High School teacher gets 5-day suspension, reassignment

An independent investigation into social media comments made by a Fairborn High School teacher found that he violated several board policies and the teacher will get a five-day unpaid suspension, according to school documents.

Fairborn High business teacher and assistant football coach Mike Blandino on Sept. 10 signed an agreement, obtained by the Dayton Daily News, that states he will get a five-day unpaid disciplinary suspension on days to be determined by the board. Blandino will be removed from his classroom duties and reassigned to a “special assignment with the board,” board documents said.

Blandino also will have to get special training on racial sensitivity and agree to maintain “appropriate professional relationships with students at all times, regardless of location.” If Blandino violates the agreement, it states he will have to submit his resignation. The agreement also states that if the superintendent or the board, at any point, believe Blandino has not complied with the agreement that they will give him written notice and a hearing.

Fifteen people were interviewed as part of the independent investigation, including current and former students and Deb Hauberg, Fairborn High School assistant principal. The investigator was Jessica Branner, a Columbus-based attorney.

ExploreRecords: Fairborn teacher, coach posted using yearbook social media account

The investigation looked into several social media posts by Blandino, on both personal and school accounts. The investigator looked at posts as far back as 2012.

The investigator found that even though some comments were made from Blandino’s personal accounts, that he still violated board policy. Board policy states that “An employee’s . . . First Amendment rights . . . do not include permission to post inflammatory comments that could compromise the District’s mission . . . or cause a substantial disruption to the school environment,” according to the report.

According to the investigator’s report, Blandino responded to a Twitter post stating President Donald Trump “called black people ‘thugs’” by tweeting back, “Just because he speaks the truth you all can’t stand it. Take your blinders off.”

Blandino also tweeted from the Fairborn High School yearbook club’s Twitter account about former President Barack Obama. Per the report, Blandino said he did not mean to tweet from that account.

The report states: "Even if Mr. Blandino intended no racial innuendo (with his social media comments), he should have considered the possible negative interpretation of his post. Mr. Blandino should have considered the sensitive nature around the use of the word ‘thug’ in reference to the Black community because he had been reprimanded seven months prior for calling a Black student a ‘thug.'”

According to his personnel file, which was obtained by the Dayton Daily News, in October 2019 Blandino had a talk with the principal of Fairborn High School, Brian McKnight, about “calling an African American student a ‘thug’” during school and “language/profanity” he used during a football game.

Blandino and McKnight met and discussed the two incidents. Blandino apologized to the football team and discussed apologizing to the student.

In an email to Blandino after their meeting, McKnight states that faculty must “strive to create a learning environment that nurtures to fulfilling the potential of all students.”

The investigator also looked into Blandino’s behavior in the classroom. Several students accused him of acting differently towards students of color and pushing his political beliefs on them. In the report, Blandino responded to those statements saying that there are other political artifacts across the school and wasn’t aware that a “Make America Great Again” hat displayed in his classroom made anyone uncomfortable.

The investigator’s report found “sufficient facts” that Blandino’s actions violated a board policy.

“The combination of what appears to be overly eager political conversations with students and three different partisan political items (the bobblehead, the talking button, and the hat) suggests Mr. Blandino was using his position as a teacher for his partisan political purposes. Even if it wasn’t Mr. Blandino’s intent to persuade students on his political views, the Donald Trump items and conversations had the effect of creating a space where students felt Mr. Blandino was pushing his politics on them. As a result, Mr. Blandino’s conduct violated (board policy),” the report states.

The investigator said that there was not enough evidence to classify Blandino’s actions as race or color harassment or gender/sexual harassment. Blandino did not violate board policy with his classroom conduct, according to the report.

Blandino’s wife, Barbara Blandino, resigned from her school board position earlier this week with the Fairborn district. In her resignation letter, she stated that she felt resigning was in the best interest of the school district and her family.

Mike Blandino, who has been on administrative since June, could not be reached for comment.

Fairborn Superintendent Gene Lolli declined to comment further, saying he can’t comment on personnel matters. Blandino has worked for the district for more than two decades, according to school records.

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