Feds open investigation into PHM for retaliation against parent who filed Civil Rights complaint

PHM School Board
PHM Board of School Trustees President, Chris Riley, addresses the public at its meeting on August 8th, 2022.

MISHAWAKA, Ind. — REAL News Michiana has learned the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has opened another investigation into the Penn Harris Madison School Corporation. This time, the investigation is focusing on apparent retaliation the school district took against a parent who filed a civil rights complaint earlier this year.


Earlier this year, PHM parent Ben Dallas filed a Civil Rights complaint against the school district for violating the civil rights of straight, white students. Last month, the OCR released their findings in which PHM was forced to admit that it indeed violated student civil rights. The very next day, PHM banned Dallas from all PHM property.

Shortly after PHM banned Dallas from PHM property, Vice President of the PHM School Board Ryan McCullough sent Dallas’ employer a message on Linkedin in an attempt to get him fired from his non-school related job.


While it appears obvious the school district banned Dallas from PHM property in retaliation for his Civil Rights complaint, PHM falsely claimed the parent was threatening gun violence against the school board for creating a critical meme that included a scene from the movie The Matrix.

The meme is taken from a scene in The Matrix that 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. The scene is frequently used as a template for memes across the world to show people skillfully dodging controversial issues.

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 he filed against PHM earlier this year in which PHM 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.”

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