Resigned Lakota board member says his student arrest comment was ‘unacceptable’: What we know today

Recently resigned Lakota Board of Education member Todd Parnell says he apologizes for his comment in the aftermath of two Lakota West High School students' arrests, where he stated police "should have shot them." (File Photo\Journal-News)

The recently resigned member of Lakota school board said he takes full responsibility for an emailed comment following two student arrests that caused his departure.

Former Lakota Board of Education member Todd Parnell told the Journal-News on Saturday that given the heightened sensitivity surrounding the use of police force in recent months, he shouldn’t have tried to joke about officers arresting two Lakota West High School students in the campus parking lot.

In Parnell’s response to an email sent to school parents by the Lakota West principal about the arrests, he wrote, “they should have shot them” referring to the Aug. 26 incident.

ExploreLakota board member resigned after saying of students arrested, ‘They should have shot them’

“I sincerely apologize for making a sarcastic comment that in these times is unacceptable,” Parnell said.

Parnell was asked by Lakota School Board President Brad Lovell less than 24 hours later to resign from the governing board of southwest Ohio’s largest suburban district.

“I made stupid comment. It was a mistake and I’m owning it,” said Parnell, who added he had not seen police officer body camera video of the arrest until after sending his comment.

Two Lakota West students were arrested Aug. 26 in the school’s parking lot after classes as part of West Chester police serving a search warrant in connection with their investigation into an earlier home burglary.

Police body cam video showed a male student, handcuffed by officers, who was directed to remain sitting in the back seat of a cruiser but then tried to exit the cruiser and stand up.

The student was also yelling for other students nearby to destroy cell phones. The juvenile was later charged with tampering with evidence, resisting arrest and obstructing official business.

Parnell said he considered pushing back on Lovell’s request for his resignation but decided to instead leave the five-member board earlier than his planned resignation at the end of this year to pursue a job opportunity outside the district.

Originally, Parnell cited the employment change as the reason for his resignation on Aug. 27. But during Friday’s school board meeting, Lovell read a statement revealing it was instead Parnell’s emailed comment to Lakota West Principal Ben Brown that led him to ask for Parnell’s resignation.

Lovell said that “the decision was made quickly to ask Mr. Parnell for his resignation from the board. Unlike a company employee, as an elected official, a school board member cannot be immediately fired.”

“Mr. Parnell’s email to Mr. Brown was abhorrent and it does not in any way reflect the values of our school board, school district leadership or our school family,” said Lovell, who later in the statement referred to Parnell’s comment as “vile.”

Matt Miller, superintendent of the 16,800-student Lakota Schools, also released a statement after the Friday board meeting, saying “opinions like the one shared by Mr. Parnell ... will not be tolerated.”

“Lakota Local Schools and the Lakota Board of Education must act in the best interest of all of our students,” Miller said. “Transparency is very important to all of us at Lakota. However, it is important that you understand that we allowed Mr. Parnell to resign for personal reasons to help protect his family, especially his children, from any backlash that may occur.”

The school board is scheduled to vote on Parnell’s replacement during Monday’s board meeting after interviewing candidates Saturday and today.

Lovell said a coming release of public records to local media prompted his Friday statement and that the board’s original plan that allowed Parnell to cite personal reasons for his resignation was done to protect the now-former school board member’s school-age children.

“As a board, we discussed how to react to Mr. Parnell’s email to Mr. Brown and decided to not discuss it publicly out of sensitivity for Mr. Parnell’s family, particularly his children,” wrote Lovell.

“We want you, our community, to understand that Mr. Parnell’s vile comments have absolutely no place in this school district. The board acted swiftly and definitively to remove him from his seat.”

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