West Milton residents seek transparency from BOE


By Eamon Baird

[email protected]

WEST MILTON — A standing-room-only crowd of concerned parents and residents attended Monday night’s Board of Education, asking for more transparency from the board and Superintendent Brad Ritchey.

This was the first regular scheduled monthly meeting after a lawsuit was filed on Sept. 29, 2023, against the Milton-Union Exempted Village School District Board of Education, Superintendent Brad Ritchey in his capacity as superintendent, according to court documents, and against Ritchey individually, as well as Jerry North, a former janitor employed with the Milton-Union School District.

On May 3, 2023, North was indicted on three counts of rape of a victim under the age of 10, all first-degree felonies, two counts of gross sexual imposition, both second-degree felonies, and one count of intimidation of an attorney, victim or witness in a criminal case, a third-degree felony, after alleged actions that occurred in boy’s restroom of Milton-Union Elementary School. These assaults allegedly occurred between Aug. 1, 2019, and May 31, 2021.

During the public comments section of the meeting, members of the community were given three minutes to speak directly to the board about any questions or concerns they had.

Amy Stevens asked the board about the chain of command for reporting abuse or misconduct in schools.

“How are we teaching our teachers or staff how to handle these things when these kids come to you with something?” Stevens asked.

Many other parents expressed frustration about how the board handled this incident. Others asked if any new policies have been put in place.

Some spoke up for the board and said to wait until all the facts are heard in the case to pass any judgments, including Doug Parsons, whose wife serves on the board.

“I would like to say to the board and the superintendent for their patience and strong character during these difficult times that I believe have been made more difficult by some members of the district to cast down rumors and claims based on what I believe are no facts. It is my hope as these same individuals, so we’re going to jump on the bandwagon to make their community a school that will show as much effort in apologizing publicly these accusations if these accusations are false because you’re messing with me and why you think this child you know, there has been no trial yet,” Parsons said.

Parents and residents continued to press the board for answers regarding policy changes, transparency, and chain of command. Board member Ben Dehus reiterated that they could not discuss the details of an ongoing case.

“We’re really in a difficult situation. There’s a lot of things we would like to discuss with you guys; we’re all out for the best interest of the students,” Dehus said.

Jordan Huffman said there was a gap between the school board and community members but hoped this meeting could help change that perception.

“I want to feel like we’re all on the same team. I want to feel like somebody’s bridging the gap between us because some of the optics are bad. Some of the stuff that’s on the news is bad, whether it’s correct or not, it looks bad for you guys, but the communities and people on this board that I really like, and the other ones, We all got to get along because you’re on the board whether we like it or not. And we’re here whether you guys like it or not. So I’d like to get along with everybody,” Huffman said.

After nearly 90 minutes, the board closed the public commentary to discuss other items on the agenda. They announced the next scheduled meeting would be on Monday, Nov. 20.

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