MISHAWAKA, Ind. — A St. Joseph County Deputy arrested a peaceful parent at the Penn Harris Madison Board of School Trustees meeting on Monday night as the parent requested more time to address the board about its finances and a potential tax hike for residents.
Andy Rutten was addressing the board with information he had gathered and was attempting to show numbers and statistics to members at the time. During his presentation, a board member or administrator had taken up much of the parent’s allotted 3 minutes to reply to one aspect of the concerns. Immediately after, the parent requested more time to discuss another point of concern.
It turns out, the parent who was arrested, had made a complaint to the State of Indiana about how the school district holds some meetings. As a result of the complaint, last month the State came down with a ruling showing PHM in fact broke the law.
“Your time has expired sir, thank you.” A member of the board is heard saying.
“I would like to continue to present my testimony.” Rutten responded.
“This is not testimony. You’re not under oath. It’s a public presentation.” Board President Chris Riley said.
“I would like to continue to present this discussion, for this special hearing. I would like to continue.” Rutten said again.
“Mr. Rutten, please take your seat.” Riley said.
As Rutten continued to plead his case, Riley inflamed the situation.
“At this point you’re interrupting the school board meeting.” Riley said.
“I’m prepared to do that right now.” Rutten responded.
“Deputy, would you escort him back to his seat please?” Riley said as he gestured toward a St. Joseph County Deputy. “Mr. Rutten, here are your choices.”
“I would like to stay and continue presenting. So, I ask to please let me do that.” Rutten continued politely.
“The next thing, you will be asked to leave.” The deputy then says.
“So, my choice is either to sit down or leave the room?” Rutten asks the deputy.
“Yes.” The deputy responds. “They asked you to stop and now they’re quietly asking you to sit down. I am asking you to sit down so they can move on.”
“I would like to stay and continue to present.” Rutten said.
“They told you ‘no’ so.” The deputy said.
President Riley then intervenes again, telling Rutten to stop or leave. When Rutten said he chose to stay and present Riley stated, “I think he’s made his decision.” As the deputy approached him, Rutten asked that the Deputy escort him out by his arm.
“Nope.” The deputy responded.
“Then I would like to continue.” Rutten stated.
“You’ve been asked to leave by them. This arrest is for trespass.” The deputy stated as he then put Rutten into handcuffs.
PHM BREAKS THE LAW
This arrest of the parent at the PHM meeting comes only weeks after the State of Indiana came down with a ruling showing the school district broke the law in regard to how it holds public meetings. Rutten made the complaint that lead to the ruling.
The State of Indiana released a scathing report in March, condemning the Penn Harris Madison School Corporation for blatantly breaking public records laws after an investigation by Indiana’s Public Access Counselor (PAC).
In a 9 page report by the PAC, the state lays out the complaint, Indiana’s laws and the violations committed by PHM Schools.
In January, Rutten submitted a public records request for information regarding PHM’s Superintendent Advisory Council (SAC). PHM claimed the SAC was exempt from Indiana’s Open Door Law — which requires meetings of certain public bodies be open to the public. PHM erroneously stated that since members of the SAC are appointed by the Superintendent and not an elected body, the meetings did not need to be open to the public.
The SAC has been responsible for pushing Critical Race Theory tenets into PHM schools through Diversity Equity and Inclusion initiatives. All of their meetings have been held in secret due to PHM’s violations.
According to PHM’s Website, “The objective of the SAC Steering Committee this year will be to serve in an advisory role regarding the implementation of the district’s DEI goals proposed by the SAC last year. P-H-M values and celebrates diversity and seeks to work on eliminating racial injustices and discrimination within the school district.”
The SAC consists of “members of P-H-M’s administration, teachers, staff, parents/guardians, students, as well as the greater community,” according to the website.
In the conclusion of his report, the Public Access Counselor wrote, “it is the opinion of this office that the Superintendent’s Advisory Council for Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation is subject to the Open Door Law.”
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