Pickerington schools under fire after two administrators punished differently for violating the same policy

Local News

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) — Pickerington Local School District is getting some major pushback from educators, students, and parents after two different administrators, one Black and one white, violated the same policy and were reprimanded differently.

Many of the people that showed up Monday outside of the Pickerington School Board offices explained that nearly 45 percent of students in the district are students of color, which is another reason they want to see more diversity in the district staff and board. 

“I would like to see more equality in the system,” explained Pickerington School District junior Michelle Mitchell.  “I’m here to make a difference in the community because there is a lot of inequality that needs to be dealt with.” 

She added that she feels outraged at the recent actions by the school board.

“What happened to Damicka Bates and Ruth (Stickel), that’s not okay. Those were her own words that she posted on Facebook,” Mitchell said.

This community rally was sparked by recent social media posts made by Stickel, the principal of Fairfield Elementary School, who is white. She posted and shared multiple times, including some posts saying, “Black Lives Matter is Leftist Lie.”

After an investigation by the board, she was given a written warning.

This past summer, Bates, a Black assistant principal, lost a promotion because of a social media post, a photo of her daughter standing in front of a graffiti mural with a negative message about police.

Both of them violated the same district policy.

Many are arguing that this isn’t right and it’s unfair.

“Stick to a standard and make that the standard for everyone,” said Charles Newman.

Newman organized Monday’s rally and he’s also a Pickerington alumnus. He said things need to change soon.

“I think today, they heard us, they heard our voice even though they may not have been here physically,” Newman said. “They saw that this community is tired of the lack of transparency and tired of the lack of equity.”

The group is collecting signatures and demanding changes from the board. Below are the changes Newman outlined:

  1. The immediate removal of Ruth Stickel from her current position as principal of Fairfield Elementary School and reassignment to duties that will prohibit her bias from impacting children. She has demonstrated herself unfit to serve in a leadership capacity and has levied racist views that are detrimental to the development of black and brown students.
  2. The immediate appointment of an Executive Director of Diversity and Inclusion for Pickerington Local School District, with Board of Education direct reporting responsibilities. 
  3. An immediate amendment to the Pickerington Local School District Board of Education’s Governing By-laws, Policies and Procedures to increase Board membership by four positions to be appointed with individuals of color, who represent underserved populations, inclusive of individuals protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 
  4. An independent investigation of the Pickerington Local School District Human Resources department under the leadership of Zack Howard. The investigation will be charged with reviewing civil rights violations of African American administrators, teachers, staff and students. 
  5. A three-year Strategic Diversity and Equity Plan, fully funded by the District, to be monitored for progress by an independent community-based advisory group of Pickerington parents, who represent the minority populations of the PLSD. 
  6. The group of community members issue a vote of no confidence in Pickerington Superintendent, Christopher Briggs and demand his immediate resignation. The group of community members feel he has failed to provide competent oversight and equitable administration of policies and procedures of the Pickerington Local School District.”

“We want to make sure the line of equity is fair across the board and things to put in place that what happened in this situation doesn’t happen anymore,” noted Newman.

The board met this afternoon but quickly went into a closed-door executive session.

According to the public relations coordinator for the district, Crystal Davis, “The board is holding a virtual board meeting tonight beginning at 5 p.m., which will recess nearly immediately into executive session to discuss personnel matters. The case involving Principal Stickel will be discussed during that session. No other items are on the agenda. The district will not be releasing a statement before the meeting.”

As of 10 p.m., there had been no statement from the district.

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