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Published: Tuesday, 2/12/2013

Split Ohio board of ed declines to remove leader over Hitler post

BY CATHERINE CANDISKY
COLUMBUS DISPATCH

COLUMBUS — A divided Ohio Board of Education on Monday refused to remove President Debe Terhar after an uproar over her Facebook post seeming to compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler.

The board voted 10-6 against removing her as president after she apologized for her “error in judgment.”

“I ask for forgiveness for that mistake and give my complete assurance that this will never occur again,” Ms. Terhar said while reading from a statement. “It is my hope that we can put this issue behind us and continue our important work together for Ohio’s children.”

During nearly two hours of debate before their vote, the board was divided along familiar lines. Most elected members called for Ms. Terhar to step down while those appointed by Gov. John Kasich stood behind her.

Those calling for Ms. Terhar to step down said the controversial anti-gun control Facebook post in the wake of the Connecticut school massacre has distracted from the work of the board.

“I am more than willing to move past the incident and accept your apology,” said Mike Collins, an elected board member from Westerville.

Still, he questioned her ability to lead the board with “a black eye or a scar that will haunt your actions for a long time.

“I don’t believe any of this will go away ... in terms of our audiences anywhere we go .... the distraction that continues will be very detrimental to the work that lies before us.”

But supporters said Ms. Terhar’s remarks on the Internet were private and suggested critics were trying to use the incident for political gain.

C. Todd Jones, an appointed board member from New Albany, said he too was disappointed by Ms. Terhar’s Facebook post but believed her apology was sincere and urged his colleagues to accept it and move on.

“If that’s not enough for you, what is the standard we are going to use for someone who makes a few-second error in judgment in an online private comment that it merits the end of political status?” Mr. Jones asked.

“I assure you it is something that no one will meet as a political standard.”

Ms. Terhar listened to the debate without showing any emotion. She declined to answer questions from board members or afterward from the media except to tell one colleague that she never considered stepping down as president.

Ms. Terhar, following Mr. Obama’s call for tighter gun controls in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, posted a picture of Hitler on her Facebook page with this quote: “Never forget what this tyrant said, ‘To conquer a nation first disarm its citizens’ — Adolf Hitler.”

Ms. Terhar said she did not mean to compare Hitler to the President but was encouraging people to consider history in the gun debate.

She told colleagues Monday that her “error in judgment must not delay any of the valuable work of this board.”



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