Ohio AG weighs-in: Lebanon superintendent ‘wrong’ to keep protesters off school property

A group of Lebanon and Warren County residents expressed their opposition to the use of Donovan Elementary School for an After School Satan Club meeting on Jan. 27, 2022. No incidents were reported at the meeting or outside of the school. ED RICHTER/STAFF

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A group of Lebanon and Warren County residents expressed their opposition to the use of Donovan Elementary School for an After School Satan Club meeting on Jan. 27, 2022. No incidents were reported at the meeting or outside of the school. ED RICHTER/STAFF

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has told Lebanon Schools superintendent that he shouldn’t discourage protesters upset about the After School Satan Club from gathering near the school.

“This rubs against the First Amendment,” Yost said in a letter to the superintendent. “The area around the school is a public forum. Public streets, sidewalks, and parks have ‘time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions.’”

Lebanon Schools Superintendent Isaac Seevers issued a letter on Jan. 25 requesting families and residents not protest on school property against the first meeting of the After School Satan Club, citing an effort to maintain order and safe departure for students from Donovan Elementary School last Thursday.

Less than a dozen people protested, carrying signs saying they were against the school district allowing the new group to meet. No problems were reported to police from the protest.

ExploreOpponents held signs but no incidents for 1st meeting of Satan Club in Lebanon

Yost tweeted Friday that Seevers was “wrong” to discourage parents from their First Amendment rights on school property while supporting the same rights for the After School Satan Club to meet there.

Yost also then sent Seevers the letter, saying the rights of the club and the parents should have been upheld by the district.

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In the letter dated Jan. 28, Yost said much of Seevers’ letter was fine except for asking the public to “refrain from gathering at the school or protesting on or around school grounds,” and instead asking them to “please find another place in town.” Seevers’ letter also reminded residents that the young students might have no idea why adults would gathering.

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“The decision to allow the Satan Club to rent Lebanon school facilities was, predictably, a decision many people don’t like,” Yost said in his letter to the district. “And under our constitution, they have a right to say so, in public, without being steered miles down the road. During the next meeting of this attention-seeking afterschool club, I strongly encourage you to allow the speech that American citizens are entitled to engage in.”

Seevers said in a statement Tuesday that the district had received Yost’s letter and was discussing it with their legal counsel.

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Lebanon City Manager Scott Brunka said the city received one permit request and issued one permit for people opposing the After School Satan Club. He said his office and police worked with school officials to develop a safety plan for last week.

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Police Chief Jeff Mitchell said the superintendent decided who would be allowed on school grounds. Mitchell said there were no incidents reported to police nor was there any complaints made to police concerning the event. He also said police monitored social media and no posts raised any safety concerns.

The After School Satan Club has a monthly meeting scheduled for February, March, April and May.

District officials said two students and seven adults participated in the meeting last week.

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