Oregon school board President ready to move on from alleged incident with autistic man


Affter listening to concerns from advocates for people with disabilities, Oregon school board President P.J Kapfhammer said he wants to put the Feb. 1 incident involving an autistic man behind him and focus on improving the school district.

Mr. Kapfhammer choked back tears as he gave a statement Tuesday night at the regular monthly board of education meeting, the first since he allegedly shouted profanities and threatened Thomas Blachowski.

"It's been the hardest two weeks of my life. I am sorry if I let anybody down. I am sorry that my kids had to go through this," the school board president said.

Menancing and disorderly conduct charges were filed on Feb. 13 in Oregon Municipal Court against Mr. Kapfhammer following a police investigation into the incident in the Clay High School exercise room.

Mr. Blachowski, 25, who is the honorary manager of the high school baseball team, was working out with players in the exercise room when the board president yelled a profanity and threatned to harm him, according to a police report filed two days after the incident by Terrie Blachowski, the man's mother.

Mr. Kapfhammer said at the meeting that he didn't want the incident to divide the community.

"Everybody who knows me in my heart of hearts knows that I would never hurt anybody with a disability," he said. "I want to put this behind me and work with groups to make sure this doesn't happen again."

The school board meeting opened with remarks from Tim Harrington, executive director of the Ability Center of Northwest Ohio, and Lon Mitchell, public information manager with the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Mr. Harrington, who was born with cerebral palsy, said he was the Start High School baseball team manager in 1975 and 1976 and the acceptance of him by the team allowed them to learn "what it means to look out for one another."

"Tommy deserves to remain part of this team. Now it is up to this district to provide leadership to make sure that happens," Mr. Harrington said.

Mr. Mitchell said rumors circulating in the community that the board of education was considering making changes in extracurricular activities in the wake of the incident involving Mr. Blachowski are troubling.

He said the baseball team and its manager recently received an award from the Arc of Lucas County for their positive interactions and "welcoming spirit" in allowing him to be part of the program.

"We believe schools are the hubs of our neighborhoods, where new thoughts, tolerances, and sense of community originate. The members of the baseball team have found through their interactions with Tommy an understanding of people with disabilities," Mr. Mitchell said.

Mr. Kapfhammer said he would welcome working with the groups.

"I guess we will be reaching out to you," he said.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199