Wayne parent alleges ‘culture of hate,’ superintendent touts positive culture

Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 4:21 PM

Wayne parent alleges ‘culture of hate,’ superintendent touts positive culture

Wayne High School’s principal met this week with a parent who alleges there is a “culture of hate … and white supremacy within all Huber Heights City Schools,” according to interviews with the parent and superintendent.

After Principal Jeff Berk met Monday with parent Will Smith, Smith on Wednesday evening sent local news media an eight-point list of demands on behalf of a group called the “Coalition of Concerned African American Parents and Students of Wayne High School.”

“There are glaring disparities with how African American students are handled versus the way white students are handled,” Smith said in the press release. “African American students and families feel that no matter how many times they voice their concerns, their pleas” fall on deaf ears.

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Meanwhile, district officials said they were surprised Smith went to the media after what they believed was a constructive meeting during which Smith was invited to sit on the school’s parent advisory committee.

“They met for over an hour,” Superintendent Sue Gunnell said of Berk’s meeting with Smith. “My impression was that Mr. Berk said it was a good conversation and tried to assure him that, no, this is not happening, everything has a great, positive climate here at Wayne High School.”

Additionally, Gunnell said teachers work on practicing positive behavior intervention and support to create a “climate that is one of respect” and safety at school. She additionally said parents were welcome to meet with her to discuss concerns.

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Smith said, “While the administration prides itself on being the only high school in Ohio with outstanding diversity, parents are concerned that the administrative and teaching staff do not fully grasp what true diversity looks like in practice.”

Smith — whose daughter is a senior at Wayne — and his public relations agent said they would work to provide the media with proof.

“It is my understanding that he, as well as another parent … met with the principal and got a lot of lip service,” said Jessica Watters-East, the public relations agent. “He felt that no one was looking into the totality of the incident.”

“They would like to sit down with members of the school higher ups,” she said. “He’s planning on being at the school board meeting.”

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Other parents interviewed by this newsroom indicated the problems were being overplayed.

“I would say there is a little racial tension…” said Monica Richardson, who is black and whose daughter is a senior at Wayne High School. She said her daughter was nervous about going to school Monday because of bomb threats. “But the issues going on, I’m not so certain it’s actually racial.”

The main points of tension between Smith and the district are:

» Threats of violence: Smith says that prior to Saturday’s homecoming dance “several threats of violence were made. The threats were targeting African American students who had exercised their First Amendment rights by kneeling silently as the national anthem played during a pep assembly and the subsequent football game. Following this peaceful protest, a number of white students sent threats via SnapChat and graffiti written on school property. A number of teachers threatened students as well.”

Gunnell said Thursday: “My understanding is that there were not threats to students of color.”

Berk said a message found in a bathroom last week said “people at Wayne are going to die.” School officials identified the student responsible for that message, started the student conduct procedure, and notified police. Then, on Saturday night, the school’s homecoming dance was abruptly ended when a loud noise and threat of a “gun” spooked students and caused a police response. Administrators also identified a student connected to the incident and are working through the school’s conduct procedure, but police said this week officers will not bring charges in the incident.

The Dayton Daily News and WHIO have requested the Huber Heights Police Division provide incident reports and investigations involving Wayne High School since July 1. Additionally, the news organizations have requested that the district and police provide video of the homecoming incident.

» Attendance issues: Smith alleges that on Monday “over (50 percent) of enrolled students did not attend school because of a bomb threat posted on SnapChat.”

Attendance was down to about 80 percent on Monday, this newsroom reported Berk saying on Tuesday. A typical school day sees an attendance rate of about 91 percent, Berk said.

“There were less students than a typical day, but it wasn’t drastic numbers,” he said.

» First Amendment issues: Smith “demands” that “The First Amendment right(s) of students and parents … be upheld,” but in a follow-up interview with this news outlet conceded that the rights are already being upheld.

In the same press release demanding First Amendment rights be upheld “without being harassed and threatened by staff, students and other parents,” Smith detailed how Berk “had a meeting with the staff of Wayne HS and reminded them that the students who chose to kneel are afforded the right to do so under the protections of the United State(s) Constitution and it is unlawful to coerce, harass or intimidate a student to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.”

Gunnell said Berk addressed the school over its public address system to remind them “that students have the right to kneel and sit, and we have to be respectful of that.”

Wreaths adorn local veterans’ graves on National Wreaths Across America Day

Published: Saturday, December 16, 2017 @ 6:58 PM

Volunteers placed wreaths on the tombstones of veterans as part of Wreaths Across America day Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. Every December volunteers take part in the project at 1,200 cemeteries.

On National Wreaths Across America Day, wreaths were lain across the graves of veterans across the country, and in Dayton.

Among veterans’ graves adorned with wreaths are those at the Dayton National Cemetery at the Dayton VA Medical Center, 4400 W. Third St.

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Each December the mission of wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and 1,200 other locations in the nation, at sea and abroad is to remember, honor and teach.

Call our monitored 24-hour line, 937-259-2237, or send it to newsdesk@cmgohio.com.

Historic Lebanon church hit by fire seeks help for children’s pageant, ministry

Published: Saturday, December 16, 2017 @ 6:03 PM

Lebanon church fires causes patrons grief

A historic church known for its good deeds in the community is now asking for the community’s help to continue its ministry.

Bethel AME Church was hit by a devastating fire early Wednesday that severely damaged the sanctuary and community room.

Worship services and a children’s Christmas Eve pageant are short essential items.

“We are grateful for the kindness our community has shown in the hours since the tragic fire,” the Rev. Karen Schaeffer, pastor of Bethel, stated in a Saturday news release.

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“After a prayer service that evening, the church met and made a plan to get us through the next couple of weeks,” Schaeffer said.

For Bethel’s worship services, the church, at 111 N. Cherry St., is in need of 20 children’s Bibles, 25 NRSV study Bibles, communion trays and supplies; altar vestments, clergy robes, advent supplies, rolling suitcases and plastic totes.

The church fire destroyed the sanctuary along with the costumes and props for the children’s program. The Lebanon Theatre Company at 10 S. Mechanic St. has opened its doors to Bethel so the church can use its space for rehearsals and the Christmas Eve performance, Schaeffer said.

Costume List: children’s choir robes; 2-3 sheep (toddlers, preschool); 3 angels (first- and third-graders); 3 Pharisees (medium-sized boys); Mary and Joseph (children) and shepherds (2-3 adults).

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Props List: Christmas tree; scrolls; manger; baby Jesus doll; shepherds crook or staff; stick horse; fireplace background; and poster board for signs.

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was established in 1858 and its church building dedicated in 1861.

Check and cash donations are being accepted at Sharefax Credit Union in the name of the Bethel Fire Donation Fund at 1550 Genntown Drive, Lebanon, 45036.

Call our monitored 24-hour line, 937-259-2237, or send it to newsdesk@cmgohio.com.

Christmas toy giveaway marks 10th anniversary in Middletown

Published: Saturday, December 16, 2017 @ 3:23 PM

Local event marks 10th Anniversary

Sunday will mark the 10th anniversary of the annual Christmas Toy Giveaway in Middletown.

The Louella Thompson Dream Center Feed the Hungry Project organization will host the annual Christmas giveaway from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the YMCA Middletown Branch, 1020 Manchester Ave.

More than 530 children have pre-registered to participate in the event, according to Deborah Patterson, the project’s executive director.

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Patterson developed the original concept when she was the organization’s president. With the assistance of various community volunteers, they were able to make 100 children happy on Christmas in 2007. The event was located at the Louella Thompson Dream Center, but after its sixth year the event outgrew the Dream Center and partnered with the Middletown YMCA.

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Bridget Kinney, the project’s chairwoman, said since moving to the YMCA, the event has grown exponentially to more than 500 children including parents. She said the event includes various activity stations, pictures with Santa, dancing and food.

As of Saturday, Kinney said the organization is still in need of toy donations for this year’s event.

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“We have 531 children that have registered and we do not want to disappoint them,” Kinney said.

Event sponsors include Walmart, Meijer, Middletown Firefighters Local 336 and Gold Star Chili, Kinney said. In addition, there are a number of volunteer sponsors including Bethel AME Church’s Youth Ministry; and Nettie Dupee and the Gift Wrap Committee.

For more information about the organization’s programs, call 513-423-0433.

Suspect throws rock into $1.00 Store in attempted break-in

Published: Saturday, December 16, 2017 @ 3:24 PM

Dayton $1.00 store attempted break-in

A man riding a bicycle threw a large rock into the $1.00 Store this morning after he attempted to break in.

Police were dispatched at 6:15 a.m. Saturday to the store at 3846 Linden Ave. after the store’s alarm sounded.

According to the incident report, video surveillance showed a man approach the back of the store on a bicycle and try to gain access through the back door. 

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The suspect threw the rock through the glass at the front of the store after failed attempts to enter the back door. He then immediately took off on his bicycle, according to the report. 

The bicycle is described to have several reflectors on it. 

If you have any information on this incident, please call Crime Stoppers at 222-STOP.