Minford students return to camp

By Tom Corrigan - [email protected]

According to Minford Local Schools Superintendent Jeremy Litteral about 80 seventh graders from Minford Middle School returned home Wednesday from a trip to the same Tim Hortons Leadership Camp in Kentucky at which several Minford students last year allegedly were bullied and sexually assaulted by other students.

That alleged incident led to demonstrations outside Minford schools last fall and is the subject of an ongoing federal lawsuit against the Minford Board of Education, Litteral and Minford Middle School Principal Dennis Evans.

In what some might seem as a bit of a surprise statement, on Wednesday Litteral told the Daily Times the schools took no special precautions prior to the trip which began Monday of this week. The superintendent stated the school always has had safeguards in place, that parents and teachers all received instruction on reporting incidents and other safety measures.

“We feel like we had everything in place to keep our kids safe,” said Litteral, who added he spoke with an adult who took the trip with the students just prior to speaking to the Daily Times Wednesday. According to Litteral, that person reported everything went as planned.

“I was told the trip was phenomenal,” Litteral said.

Litteral stated he and the school board debated returning to the Tim Horton Foundation camp in light of the accusations from last year but ultimately decided to move forward with what has become an annual excursion. Minford school students have visited the camp for six years running, Litteral said. He added officials discussed the trip to the camp with parents during orientation prior to the start of the current school year. Officials also invited parents to attend an open meeting to discuss the field trip. Litteral said there were only a very few questions regarding last year’s alleged incidents.

In the meantime, Kentucky based attorney Bruce McDonald, who filed the above mentioned lawsuit in Cincinnati federal court on behalf of four Minford Middle School parents, said that lawsuit slowly is making its way through the federal legal system. MacDonald said progress with the suit slowed partly due to the sudden, unexpected passing of a defense attorney.

McDonald said no court date is set for what should be a jury trial in the suit. He stated in federal court, the law requires plaintiffs provide certain evidence prior to trial and the suit against Minford schools is now in that stage. He declined any comment on what sort of evidence the plaintiff side might present. McDonald said he was somewhat surprised to learn Minford schools allowed students to return to the same camp.

“It was my understanding they were not going to utilize that camp during the duration of this case,” McDonald said, adding, however, whether or not students should have been allowed to return to the camp clearly was not his call.

Litteral said the leadership program taught at the camp has proven worthy and beneficial for students in the past. He said students learn not only leadership skills but how to deal with problems in their lives. Previous campers went on to take part in a special reading program with Minford kindergarten students, among other post camp activities. He assumed that will be the case this year as well. Students who made the recent trip will return to Kentucky in the fall.

According to the lawsuit filed last year, the plaintiffs allege on or about Oct. 15-17, 2018, the Minford school district organized a field trip to a Tim Horton’s Camp in Campbellsville, Ky.

“(Minford Local Schools) represented to parents of students that school chaperones would be attending the trip and supervising the students. MLS represented to parents their children would be safe at the camp,” the complaint reads in part.

The complaint further alleges: “At the camp, the minor plaintiffs were sexually harassed, assaulted, battered and subjected to severe emotional distress by the Perpetrators, some on multiple occasions.”

The complaint goes on to claim teachers were in the same building where the alleged abuse took place, knew of abuse which allegedly took place the first night of the camp but did nothing about it, even failing to report it to parents, school authorities or law enforcement.

Speaking to the Times on condition of anonymity, one parent involved in the suit alleged some bullying and/or abuse took place the first night of the camp, adding the victims went to teachers, but as charged in the complaint, nothing was done. On what was apparently the second night of the camp, the parent said the victims were forced into a separate room with the perpetrators, who allegedly did some sort of vulgar dance which included rubbing body parts in the faces of their victims among other more vulgar actions.

After the allegations surfaced last year, Litteral said law enforcement in both Ohio and Kentucky conducted separate investigations into what possibly occurred at the camp. Kentucky State Police has never responded to repeated requests for comment.

Scioto County Sheriff’s Office Capt. John W. Murphy said Kentucky authorities handled the bulk of the investigation as the alleged incidents took place in that state. Murphy said at the request of Kentucky officials Scioto law enforcement completed an initial incident report and interviewed alleged victims. He declined to release any further details.

In late October, Litteral said district officials imposed discipline on an unreleased number of seventh graders for their part in whatever inappropriate and/or potentially criminal activity allegedly took place at the camp. The district released a letter to parents explaining certain students were disciplined for unspecified actions and invited parents who felt they or their children needed help in dealing with the situation to contact the district.

By Tom Corrigan

[email protected]

Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370-0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370-0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.