Lakota superintendent passes psychological exam after investigation

The Lakota school board met for a special meeting on Monday.
The Lakota school board met for a special meeting on Monday.(Albert Cesar | Albert Cesare, Cincinnati Enquirer)
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 12:01 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER) - Lakota Local Schools superintendent Matt Miller passed a psychological examination and was deemed fit to continue leading one of the largest school systems in Ohio after months of controversy, school board president Lynda O’Connor announced Monday evening. Miller was vindicated for a second time earlier this month after an investigator found claims against Miller to be false.

In an effort to get back to school business and eliminate further spread of false allegations against the district leader, or any school district employees, the school board is adding restrictions to the public comment portion of its public meetings, according to our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Further details on these restrictions are listed further down in this story. It’s not clear when they will start being enforced.

O’Connor read a statement regarding Miller’s examination and a recent investigation into false claims against him during Monday’s meeting. The statement was approved by board members Isaac Adi, Julie Shaffer and Kelley Casper. Board member Darbi Boddy voted against the statement.

Miller was investigated by the Butler County Sheriff’s Office and an independent investigator hired by the district who also completed a full forensic examination of Miller’s professional and personal devices and cloud storage. Neither investigation found Miller had participated in wrongdoing. If the board had received “any credible evidence of misconduct,” O’Connor said, Miller would have been placed on administrative leave immediately.

Most recently, Miller was evaluated by an independent psychiatrist to determine his fitness for duty. O’Connor said Monday that the psychiatrist determined a week prior that Miller is “unreservedly fit for duty.”

“While we understand that some members of our community may disagree, the board is confident that it exercised all due diligence in this matter. These claims against Mr. Miller were found to be false by multiple agencies. These claims appear to have been a personally motivated attack and would not have been brought if he were not the superintendent,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor stated the board fully supports Miller, adding that he “has been an excellent leader” and is “one of the shining lights in education, both in Ohio and nationally.”

“It’s now time for the board’s focus to return to our core work, that of educating Lakota students,” O’Connor said.

Boddy, who did not support O’Connor’s statement, continued to repeat false claims against Miller during Monday’s meeting.

“Our community is not proud of our superintendent,” Boddy said. To Miller, she said, “The fact remains that you do not have the ethics that are wanted in a superintendent of Lakota.”

O’Connor asked Miller if he’d like to address those claims, which he declined at first on advice of his attorney.

But when Boddy continued to repeat the allegations later during Monday’s meeting, including statements from the sheriff’s investigation about “pillow talk” and sexual fantasies between Miller and his former wife, Miller interrupted.

“It’s taken out of context,” Miller said. He did not elaborate.

Other board members expressed support for Miller during Monday’s meeting and a desire to move forward after the investigation.

“It has not been pleasant for any of us,” Casper said. “I’m glad we are going to be able to get back to what we should be doing, which is educating children.

Several policy changes were brought to the board on Monday, including major changes to the district’s public participation policy. The board did not vote on these changes Monday, but will vote to approve them at the next board meeting in December.

All board members but Boddy expressed support for the following changes:

  • Attendees who wish to speak at a board meeting must register their intention to participate after the agenda is published and up to 9 a.m. on the day of the meeting. Participants can register online on the district’s website, or in person at Lakota Central Offices during regular business hours. Individuals may not register others to speak during public participation unless the person wishing to speak is not physically able to register themselves.
  • Attendees cannot display posters or other objects that are distracting or obstruct others’ view of the meeting. Violators could be asked to leave the board meeting.
  • Public commenters can speak on items in the published agenda or a set of 14 specific topics including curriculum, facilities, finance, safety, special education, technology and transportation.
  • Public commenters cannot speak about specific employees during public comment.

“I’m sorry, but it looks like you’re trying to shut the community up from speaking up against Matt Miller who’s trying to bully people into being quiet,” Boddy said. “That’s what this looks like and it’s bad timing. It’s a bad policy and you’re not respecting the parents of our community and their voices.”

Shaffer said one of the reasons for restricting comments about specific employees is due to concerns about retention.

“I want to make sure that our staff knows that we are not going to support potentially libelous or slanderous information be presented at the mic,” Shaffer said.

The board spent over an hour discussing the public participation changes during last week’s policy committee meeting, O’Connor said, especially after a lawsuit was filed against the district in late September by Curt Hartman on behalf of Liberty Township resident Diane Hughes.

Hartman filed a motion for a temporary restraining order against the district along with the suit, claiming O’Connor had denied Hughes and others access to participate in public comments because of their desire to speak critically of Miller. The board voted to approve a settlement with Hughes on Monday, which included $15,000 to Hartman, and Hughes was the first speaker during Monday’s public comment section.

Once the new public participation policy is voted on and approved, comments about Miller or any other Lakota employee won’t be permitted. That includes positive comments, too. O’Connor said she encourages the community to send feedback on specific teachers and other staff to the board and administrators “through other channels” such as email.

“This is going to be difficult to enforce,” O’Connor said. She suggested the board reconsider the new policy in six months and make any necessary adjustments. “I’m hoping that this is going to work out much better all the way around.”

The next board of education meeting will take place on Dec. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Lakota Plains Junior School, located at 5500 Princeton Road in Liberty Township.

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