BLANCHESTER — Blanchester High School Principal Rick Hosler has filed a response to a letter of reprimand issued to him in February 2015, denying all four of the complaints, while alleging the superintendent exaggerated them and wants him gone.
“I find these rebuttals necessary in light of your apparent reliance upon them in recently opening an investigation into a new matter and placing me on administrative leave,” reads the letter, which was posted on www.teamhosler.com and confirmed by Hosler’s attorney, John Concannon. “My attorney has advised me that if you attempt to discipline me upon the current matter, which you shouldn’t, you would likely attempt a more serious discipline based upon your having reprimanded me in February.”
Blanchester Superintendent Dean Lynch did not respond to an email seeking clarification and comment by press time Friday; however, his response was received Friday evening and is as follows (in italics):
“I received the attached letter of rebuttal from Mr. Hosler on December 17, 2015. I issued the reprimand once information was brought forward to me evidencing a pattern of misconduct. However, the investigator will independently assess the allegations related to the reprimand.
The alleged meltdown toward an employee and other allegations of misconduct are what is being investigated. Any reports of this nature should be taken seriously. Whether employed at American Showa, Cintas, Proctor and Gamble or Blanchester Schools, employers have an obligation and responsibility to look into such allegations. Being placed on paid leave is part of the District’s standard investigatory procedure and does not constitute any disciplinary action by the Board.
Mr. Hosler is correct that the Board will review his employment history, including the letter of reprimand and evaluations when determining what action, if any, to take regarding his employment. Since the investigation is ongoing the Board does not plan to take any action regarding his employment at the December 21st board meeting.
Once the investigation is completed; the Board of Education will review the findings, look at their options and take appropriate action, if any.”
The February 2015 letter of reprimand, signed by Lynch, alleged Hosler failed to properly investigate a complaint of sexual harassment between two adult male staff members, allegedly heckled another district’s principal and students, allegedly intimidated kitchen staff, and allegedly criticized juvenile court and social services staff at a meet-and-greet event.
In the letter, Hosler denies all of those allegations.
The letter of reprimand alleged Hosler failed to investigate the alleged sexual harassment, instead returning to the teacher who filed the complaint, pointing his finger at that teacher and allegedly saying, “the issue with [name of alleged harasser] yesterday is a done issue and it stops here. It will go no further and stops here.”
The letter of reprimand said Hosler’s “actions are contrary to the District’s expectations that its workplace be free from unlawful harassment, and that individuals who report acts of harassment or misconduct be able to do so without fear of reprisal or retaliation.” It also said Hosler failed to report the incident to Lynch.
Hosler wrote that it was “horseplay”, not sexual harassment, and that he properly handled it by verbally reprimanding an employee “for a lewd and unprofessional gesture.” He also said neither party involved felt as though they had been sexually harassed, and he said that because retaliation is prohibited “that is a good reason [for his saying] ‘it will go no further and stops here’ … Those involved needed to understand that.”
As for the kitchen staff item, Hosler said he went to them and all parties agreed the initial complaint — that kitchen staffers were upset because Hosler hadn’t thanked them for their efforts at the Cider Keg game — had been “blown out of proportion and that there was no problem.”
The letter of reprimand cited Hosler, saying, “Both individuals stated that you angrily directed them, ‘We won’t have any more problems.’ … Both individuals indicated your actions were intimidating, and it appears to me [Lynch], done to silence them from expressing their opinions.”
In Lynch’s letter of reprimand, he alleged Hosler inappropriately criticized the juvenile court and judge and social services agencies at a meet-and-greet occasion.
“Those in attendance reported that you addressed these individuals in a disrespectful tone, and that it was not the appropriate forum to express these opinions,” Lynch wrote, adding that the judge, G. Alan Gano, confirmed having to step in “because it was escalating to the point of getting out of hand.”
Gano told the News Journal Friday that he did have to step in but did not recall telling Lynch that it was because Hosler was being unprofessional, but because they were running out of time.
“I intervened so that we can move along,” Gano said, adding that he didn’t think Hosler’s actions were unprofessional and he didn’t think anything of it.
Hosler alleges that Lynch listened to one witness in the meet-and-greet over others. Hosler also said Gano intervened because of time, not unprofessionalism.
Hosler denied heckling a student, saying that he was trying to get some information for his daughter, who was competing in the event. He said the other principal involved took the clipboard away from a girl and said he’d ask Hosler to leave, causing Hosler’s daughter to cry.
The reprimand letter alleged Hosler took student judges’ clipboard and heckled the principal and the student judges for their ability to measure shot put distances before causing a student to cry. That student’s name was blacked out in a copy of the letter obtained by news media.
“This prompted the aforementioned building principal to tell you ‘you are a principal, you should act like it’ and that if you would not be quiet, you would be escorted away from the area by police,” the reprimand letter read. “Your actions needlessly impeded the competition, and caused distress to several student-athletes, volunteer student judges and to administration from other schools.”
Throughout his rebuttal, Hosler asked questions that implied that Lynch’s February letter, due to a time gap between the incidents and the letter, was for personal reasons. For instance, he asks, “Did you request his email?” and “Did you actually solicit the letter?” Hosler also wrote that Lynch exaggerated statements.
“Superintendent Lynch, I try not to take things as personal, but your treatment of me is just that,” Hosler wrote. “You are obviously trying to get me out of the district. Your reprimands evidence that by your selective witness choices over minor issues.
“I hope you now choose to consider me a valuable member of your administration and an asset to your district,” Hosler’s letter of rebuttal continued. “I love my job. I hope you recognize the merits of this rebuttal, remove the reprimand from my file and allow me to continue to serve our students at school and not sitting home. They deserve all our best.”
The Blanchester School Board is scheduled to meet Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the high school gym. The meeting was moved from the high school media center.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.