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School board president survives removal effort

Although an effort failed on on Monday to remove the state school board president over a controversial Facebook post she made last month, the vote total showed that divisions on the board remain.

Members of the 19-person board voted 10-6 against removing Debe Terhar as board president. Five Democrats and one Republican on the board voted in favor of removing Terhar from the leadership post, while nine Republicans voted to retain her.

The vote came after Terhar opened Monday’s board meeting by apologizing for sharing a picture on her personal Facebook last month that seemed to compare gun control efforts with the views of Adolf Hitler. The post drew fire from Democrats and Jewish groups after it was reported by the media.

“I fully realize the sensitivity of the issue at hand, and I was wrong to re-post something that could ever be perceived as insensitive by anyone,” Terhar said, reading from a prepared statement. “I fully understand that as an elected official in the state, what I may say and do may find its way to public domain and, therefore, must be measured and tempered. I sincerely apologize for my transgression to everyone who may have been offended by this incident.”

Terhar, a Cincinnati Republican, had been elected to a second term as board president unanimously just last month. The board is technically non-partisan, but board members generally affiliate with one major political party over the other.

Critics on the board said her apology came too late, and that they thought the post compromised Terhar’s ability to lead effectively.

“It concerns me greatly when I look at the fact how these comments paint all of us us on this board,” said Jeffrey Mims, a Dayton Democrat, who represents Butler, Miami and Montgomery counties and part of Darke County. Mims is running for Dayton City Commission.

Terhar’s supporters on the board said the post was inappropriate, but said the resulting controversy had been ginned up by Democrats and the media.

“Debe Terhar is an individual. She did not surrender her First Amendment rights when she was elected to this body. The voters will hold her accountable if they don’t like it,” said Jeff Hardin, a Clermont County Republican.

“I’m one of those people who was disappointed to see the statement, and frankly I’m glad to see that you’ve owned up to it,” said C. Todd Jones, a New Albany Republican.

The Ohio Democratic Party made an effort to organize people to attend Monday morning’s meeting. Democrats have previously called on Terhar to resign or for Republican Gov. John Kasich to push for Terhar’s removal. They have also used the incident as a fund-raising opportunity.

Shortly after ODP took efforts to file a lawsuit over an unfulfilled public records request, department officials on Monday released two text messages sent by Terhar and dozens of emails about the incident. The messages mostly consist of people criticizing Terhar for the Hitler post, although a few messages support it.

In one email responding to a supportive member of the public, Terhar wrote she would wait the controversy out.

“I plan to stay right where I am,” Terhar wrote in the message, dated Jan. 25. “They will play this one until it dies a natural death, at least that’s what I am counting on.”

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