Although there was a visible police presence in and around Donovan Elementary School, there were no incidents reported to Lebanon School District officials on the day of the first meeting of the After School Satan Club.
The news of the club being formed and meeting in a school raised the ire of residents over the past week on social media and elsewhere. The event drew the attention of a few media outlets who were at the school Thursday.
Superintendent Isaac Seevers and his team met with city and police officials to develop a plan to ensure the safe departure of students at the end of Thursday’s school day. The plan also ensured there was a safe and secure environment for those participating in the new club. He confirmed there were two students and seven adults that were participating in the meeting.
Several Lebanon police officers were seen at the school entrances where buses and parents picked up students leaving for the day; police drove around the building and near where opponents of the club were holding signs at the corner of East Street and Justice Drive. Police also were enforcing the district’s instructions of keeping people off school property.
Across Justice Drive at the Warren County Government Campus, Warren County Sheriff’s deputies were stationed at the county Administration Building and across Memorial Drive in the parking lot of the county Common Pleas Courthouse.
At the corner of East Street and Justice Drive, several people held signs in opposition to the club.
“We’re here to stand for Jesus,” said Michelle Berry of Lebanon. “I was expecting to be the only one here.”
A mother of three, Berry said she was there “to lift the name of God.”
“We need to protect children from evil and make Christians in school know they can be bold for Jesus,” she said.
Another opponent holding a sign in the low temperatures said she was there “to show kids that God is love and wants everyone to join Him,” said Melissa McMillen of Mason. “We’re shining a light in a dark world. We have to be the voice of our children and we need Jesus in school.”
Todd Carr, an outreach evangelist from Calvary Tabernacle in Middletown, was using a microphone and an amplifier across East Street from the other opponents. He spoke of standing up for Jesus Christ and the Gospels and received cheers from the opponents as well as people honking their horns as they drove through the intersection.
However, a Lebanon police officer stopped and asked Carr to turn off his sound equipment because it was a violation of a city ordinance. Carr made a couple of comments, then shut down his equipment before being interviewed by a media outlet.
“I just wanted to finish what I had to say,” he said.
One East Street resident was not happy with Carr’s microphone near her home.
Sharalee Dickerson said she doesn’t disagree with Carr, but she said he was scaring her two children at home who have COVID-19. She stood inside her front door watching Carr speak.
“They should go to school board meetings to complain,” she said. “This won’t solve the issue.”
June Everett, an ordained minister of The Satanic Temple and the campaign manager of the After School Satan Club, said the meeting “was anti-climatic” and they were “just hanging out and having a good time playing games and enjoying snacks.”
Everett said the meetings will be held monthly unless the volunteer leadership determines the need to have more meetings.
“We’re not disappointed with today’s turnout,” she said. “We’re not going after numbers. We just want to make this available.”
Everett said there are more people interested in participating and that she has received about a dozen emails and messages. She said people are afraid of their children becoming a target. Everett also said the schools did a great job in preparing for the meeting and with security.
At the Donovan Elementary exit, a man was taking photographs with his cellphone and asking people if they were at the meeting. He said he wants to know who the people are that are going to the meeting.
Shortly before the club was to end the meeting, Seevers, who was at the school’s front door, went with a Lebanon police officer to clear the parking lot of vehicles and drivers who were not there to pick up a student attending the club meeting.
Seevers said the goal was to make sure all of the students were able to leave school and catch their buses safely and that there were no incidents. He praised the assistance of police in addressing the district’s concerns over the past week.
“We have reviewed this as a board and a district and we believe that using the schools as a meeting place is an aspect of a community school district,” he said. “Our facilities are used by community groups, religious organizations, sports groups and civic organizations. To say ‘no’ is taking away an opportunity.”
Seevers said seeing students connect with the school and staff deepens the connections academically and the district believes in doing so in a safe learning environment.
He said the district’s entire administrative team was at Donovan Elementary to support the teachers, staff and students there.
“Within these walls there was great education happening and no one was thinking about this,” Seevers said. “We want the community to understand that they are providing a safe learning environment.”