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U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel kicked out of suburban Cincinnati school board meeting

U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel speaks before a rally for Republican vice presidential...
U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel speaks before a rally for Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., at the Gradall Industries plant in New Philadelphia, Ohio, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Phil Long)(Phil Long | AP)
Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 5:05 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel was escorted out of a Butler County school board meeting Monday evening after school officials said he staged an event to “disrupt a public meeting,” according to our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

A video of the meeting is available on the Lakota Local Schools’ YouTube channel. At nearly an hour and a half into the recording, school board candidate Darbi Boddy said she would like to have Mandel speak on her behalf.

Mandel walked up to the microphone and began by criticizing the district for not publicizing its finances on the Ohio Checkbook, a website created during his tenure as state treasurer that details spending by public institutions. Board president Kelley Casper interrupted Mandel and asked him to stop speaking.

As Mandel continued, Casper announced that the board would take a recess and the video cuts out.

“I’m just trying to stand up for kids,” Mandel said in a video he posted on Twitter.

Public hearing participants must be residents of the Lakota Local School District, according to the board’s bylaws, or “be the resident’s designee and be introduced as such, and have a legitimate interest in the action of the Board.”

Mandel, a Republican from the Cleveland area, is running in a crowded primary to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. He paints himself as a fighter who isn’t afraid to disrupt the status quo and often uses social media as a platform for misinformation and controversial statements that attract attention.

“Forcing kids to wear masks in schools is a total trampling of the freedom and liberty of the kids and the parents,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. “It is not the role of a school official or politician to tell moms and dads how to raise their kids.”

In another video of the incident, provided by Mandel’s campaign, Mandel spoke about the district’s mask requirement and gender politics. Casper told the crowd that the board’s bylaws allow Boddy to designate someone to speak on her behalf, but instead she had stated she “wanted to yield her time.”

Mandel is then escorted out of the meeting by two Butler County Sheriff’s officers. According to the board’s bylaws, the board’s presiding officer may request the assistance of law enforcement officers to remove “a disorderly person when that person’s conduct interferes with the orderly progress of the meeting.”

“The school board was in total violation of their own rules and of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Mandel said in the interview. “They should be ashamed of themselves.”

Boddy told The Enquirer the entire scene “shouldn’t have happened.”

“I think school board members take themselves too seriously when they attempt to use procedural etiquette to shut down voices. These school board members should be making it as simple as possible for parents and anyone else for that matter to get in front of them and say their piece,” Boddy said.

Regardless, Boddy said, the board’s policy does allow residents to designate anyone, including Mandel, to speak in their place.

“Josh Mandel wanted to speak at our school board meeting in support of the community and their children,” Boddy said. “Unfortunately he was silenced by what I consider petty behavior by the board president and was not able to exercise his free speech.”

Douglas Horton, a Lakota Local Schools parent and candidate for school board, said he was “disappointed” to see Boddy “choose stunts over students” during Monday’s board meeting.

“Mr. Mandel is from the Cleveland area, and while watching in the audience I could see clearly that he knew nothing of Lakota, its students, its teachers, or its taxpayers,” Horton said in a statement Monday evening. “Lakota parents consistently say they don’t want politics in their schools, and I expect them to be insulted that anyone from outside our district would dare to ‘speak for Ohio parents’ in one of our buildings. In Lakota, we care about our schools, advocate for ourselves, and want nothing to do with the political jokes Mr. Mandel and some of our candidates for the Board are trying to play.”

Casper declined to comment on what happened at the meeting.

Lakota Local Schools spokesperson Betsy Fuller provided the following statement regarding the meeting:

“Our residents, or their designees, are welcome to participate during public comment at our school board meetings as long as they follow the current policy. Mr. Mandel violated the policy by bringing his own videographer to the meeting without contacting the superintendent ahead of time. In addition, he was not introduced as a resident’s designee in accordance with our policy.

“Mr. Mandel’s appearance at the meeting was a staged event meant to disrupt a public meeting. The clear disruption he caused is why he was asked to leave the meeting.”

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