SOUTH BEND, Ind. — ABC57 published an article making a Penn Harris Madison School Corporation parent out to be a criminal, after he was arrested for peacefully trying to address the school board on April 25th. The article appears as, what any journalist would consider to be, a press release for the school district, written and published by a local media outlet to run defense for a friendly entity. It turns out, PHM Communications Director, Lucha Ramey, is the wife of ABC57’s General Manager, Aaron Ramey. Aaron Ramey is ultimately in charge of all editorial content at the news station.
The article written by ABC57 Digital Content Editor, Matt Nagy, leaves out easily accessed public data that add important context to the incident. That missing context includes the fact that the parent, Andy Rutten, had filed a complaint against PHM resulting an investigation by the State of Indiana. That investigation revealed PHM had indeed broken Open Door Laws. The State issued its findings just last month.
Below is the story published by ABC57:
The ABC57 article fails to mention that Rutten was addressing the board about its finances and a potential tax hike for residents. It also fails to mention that Rutten was interrupted by an administrator or board member for much of his allotted time. Further, the story doesn’t include the full video of the incident and doesn’t even mention that the news station reached out to Rutten for comment. Lastly, and most importantly, the article fails to mention the relationship ABC57’s General Manager has with the PHM Communications Director.
Rutten has since also been issued a no-trespass warning preventing him from entering “the property of Penn-Harris-Madison Schools which includes attending events, activities or functions associated with Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation.”
PHM BREAKS THE LAW
The arrest and trespass warning 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.”
COMPLAINTS AGAINST LUCHA RAMEY
It turns out, Lucha Ramey has a history of unethical behavior and has had complaints filed against her by Rutten as well.
Last year, Rutten filed a complaint against Ramey for not allowing his wife to speak at a board meeting in June of 2021. While Ramey herself took the liberty of speaking during the public comment herself.
“I’m writing to request a brief conference to discuss in greater detail an issue wherein my wife… and a handful of others were prevented by a PHM staff member from attending and
giving visitor comments to the PHM school board at their 6/21 meeting. This staff member, as you may recall, then opted to speak towards the meeting end as an in-person visitor. I was almost prevented from attending and giving comments as well.” The parent wrote in his formal complaint.
Much of the meeting discussed PHM’s stance on having Critical Race Theory included in the curriculum. While Ramey is accused of preventing the public from speaking during the meeting, she stood up during public comment and addressed the board herself — promoting CRT practicum like Microagressions.
“What I have sat here and listened to for the past 20 minutes or so, in and of itself, is the definition of microagression.” She said. “I am a person of color who is also biracial.”
“It’s the equivalent of someone coming up to you and saying, ‘I have cancer’ and you are the doctor and have to cure of cancer and you look over that person and refuse to give it to them.” Seeming to suggest that CRT is the cure for racism.
The latest complaint against Ramey stems from the November 22nd board meeting where one parent claims she was speaking with a board member after the meeting had finished. In the parent’s emailed complaint to Superintendent Jerry Thacker, the parent claims she was berated by Ms. Ramey for discussing an article written by RNM regarding an applicant for an open board seat.
“Lucha Ramey Aggressively interrupted our conversation.” The parent wrote. “She was very agitated (as she was) talking down about a local journalist that (sic) wrote an article about a board applicant. I stopped her and calmly stated ‘I’m sorry but you interrupted a private conversation.’”
The parent claims Ramey became more aggressive after that.
“She pointed her finger in my face… stating ‘what you guys are doing is despicable.’” The email reads. “(The board member) told her she should not treat a parent like that. She proceeded to tell (the board member) she had corrected misinformation from an article and sent it to the board… I repeated to her that she does not get to interrupt private conversations. She said ‘I am the director of communications and it is my job to clear up misinformation.’”
RNM reached out to Ms. Ramey and Superintendent Thacker via email in December of 2021.
“(The comments made by the communications director are) concerning, due to the fact that nobody from PHM administration has reached out to me to request a retraction, correction or provide criticism of any kind regarding stories I have published. This is defamatory behavior toward a journalist and parent of a PHM student. Is there currently an investigation into Ms. Ramey for any of these complaints? And, does Ms. Ramey admit to making statements or claims of misinformation produced by Clifton French?”
RNM did not receive a response.
(Disclosure: Journalist Clifton French is a former employee of ABC57.)
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