PHM attempts to silence/intimidate conservative board member with legal letter

Matt Chaffee
Matt Chaffee, Board Member of the Penn Harris Madison Board of School Trustees

MISHAWAKA, Ind. — An attorney for the Penn Harris Madison School Corporation sent what appears to be an intimidating letter to one of the conservative members of the school board for simply speaking to REAL News Michiana regarding issues of public interest.

All of this stems from a September 6th story published by RNM in which we exposed an elementary school paraprofessional who moonlights as a drag queen that dresses as a sexualized child’s doll, strips and mimics sexual acts. RNM had been tipped off that paraprofessional Dominic Dallich had been removed from the classroom. RNM then contacted PHM School Board Member Matt Chaffee.

“I was informed that an employee who was featured in a recent REAL News Michiana article has been removed from the classroom today pending an investigation,” Chaffee said to RNM at the time. “However, I cannot comment on any ongoing personnel issues or investigations.”

Chaffee refused to confirm it was Dallich who had been removed from the classroom, following policy and procedures for his elected position. RNM was able to confirm that information from other sources within the school district who wished not to be named.

Regardless of these facts, PHM attorney Jon Rogers sent Chaffee the following email on September 8th.

“I’d like to set up a time to meet on Monday at my office, to reiterate the importance of confidentiality and go over various issues for the entire school board.” Rogers wrote.

The email was only sent to Chaffee. It does not appear any other board members were being brought in to discuss these issues. Further, the email does not state who directed Rogers to seek out this meeting. However, it appears only Superintendent Jerry Thacker or Board President Chris Riley would have the authority to do so.

Chaffee brought this issue up to the board at its last meeting, publicly asking who directed attorney Rogers to send him the email. Rogers and the rest of the board refused to answer his question. RNM requested the email from Chaffee following his public board meeting comments where he read what was written in the email.

“There has been a concerted effort to silence me, hence why they tried to call me down to the Principal’s office.” Chaffee stated. “But I was elected into this position to be the people’s voice, which I will continue to be. All of my comments are being made from my personal position as an elected official representing my constituents, not the position of the board.”


PHM, at the direction of its Board President Chris Riley, has consistently worked to silence conservative voices. In the past two years, Riley has directed a peaceful conservative parent to be arrested at a school board meeting. PHM also recently banned another conservative parent from all PHM properties for creating a Matrix meme and posting it online. Both of those parents had filed complaints against the school district and board for breaking state and federal laws. All of their complaints led to state and federal investigations. All of the investigations found PHM indeed broke the law.


Earlier this week, the Penn Harris Madison School Corporation banned parent Ben Dallas from all PHM property and from even attending any school board meeting virtually. Dallas had filed a Civil Rights complaint against the school corporation earlier this year, prompting an investigation by the Department of Education. The investigation also concluded earlier this week, with PHM being forced to admit that the school district violated the Civil Rights of straight white children. Dallas was sent a letter banning him from the property the very next day.

Dallas has been extremely vocal and critical of PHM, its administration and school board members for several years. He has spoken out about Critical Race Theory, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, radical gender theory and the district’s employment of a drag queen who works as a paraprofessional with developmentally disabled children.

Dallas was also successful in another complaint that he filed against PHM earlier this year in which President Chris Riley violated Indiana open door laws. That case is currently being used as an example by the state as how school boards should not behave in an article titled “Guidance from the Public Access Counselor on Public Comment at School Board Meetings.”

According to a letter Dallas received on Wednesday, the ban stems from a video he created a week ago and posted to YouTube in which he uses a popular meme from the movie The Matrix. The meme shows the main character, Neo, dodging bullets being fired at him. In the meme created by Dallas, Neo is depicted as school board president Chris Riley. Instead of dodging bullets, Riley is dodging words that come across the page. Those words include “accountability,” “hiring sex workers” and “implicit bias” — all things Riley has been accused of ignoring in the PHM School Corporation.


This isn’t the first time a vocal conservative who has filed successful complaints against the school corporation has been banned from PHM property. In April of 2022, Riley had openly conservative PHM parent Andy Rutten arrested after he peacefully requested more time to address the board about its finances and a potential tax hike for residents.

Rutten was addressing the board with information he had gathered and was attempting to show numbers and statistics to members. During his presentation, a board member or administrator had taken up much of the Rutten’s allotted 3 minutes to reply to one aspect of the concerns. Immediately after, the parent requested more time. President Riley refused to give the parent the time he deserved and instead directed a Deputy to arrest him.

PHM subsequently filed a no-trespass order against Rutten. Criminal charges were never filed and the trespass order was subsequently lifted.

It appears the arrest was simply retaliation for Rutten exposing the district for crimes it had committed. A month prior to the arrest, the State of Indiana came down with a ruling showing PHM had broken several public records/meetings laws. The ruling from the state stemmed from a complaint filed by Rutten.

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