Sexual misconduct allegations lead to memorial removal in Paulding
Saturday, May 17, 2014 12:21 AM
PAULDING - Officials from Paulding Exempted Village Schools have responded with a statement in regards to a community uproar over a memorial to a deceased teacher who is now being accused by two former students of sexual impropriety.
The release from Paulding Superintendent William Hanak states the board and the current administration takes any allegations by students or staff of harassment or abuse seriously. However, the statement goes on to say school officials have been hampered in this situation by the fact the alleged acts took place more than 30 years ago when no current staff or officials were at the school:
“The District is not able to conduct a meaningful investigation of the truth or falsity of the allegations, as the persons who supposedly had knowledge are no longer employed by the District, and the alleged perpetrator is deceased and cannot be questioned or speak in his own defense. The complaining parties graduated many years ago, so there is no action the Board could take now that could alter their educational experience. The Board is at a loss to understand why this matter is being raised with the Board at all, rather than with law enforcement.”
The memorial in question is a large rock honoring the late Don Schnepp. Up until the previous Paulding school board meeting, the tribute had sat near the entrance of the middle school with no public comment. However, at the April meeting, Barry Vance approached school officials, asking for removal of the rock. Vance spoke candidly, accusing Schnepp of rape when he was an eighth grade student in 1981. He then asked the board to remove the rock from school property as well as having no future memorials placed in Schnepp’s honor and lastly, policies be put in place that spell out what is expected between teachers or coaches and students or athletes on school property during and after school. “There are other victims out there. I know of at least eight counting myself,” Vance said.
Sometime on the morning of May 10, school officials had the rock removed. Last weekend, a second victim surfaced and came to the defense of Vance. David Kinkade, who graduated the year before Vance and now lives in Defiance, watched Vance go through this situation on social media and realized he could no longer remain silent.
“This is way too big for someone to go through all alone and I knew I had to speak out,” Kinkade said during a telephone interview.
In a recent conversation with Hanak, he commented how the alleged events took place 32 years ago and Schnepp has been deceased for ten years. “It would certainly be beneficial if others would come forward,” he said.
Kinkade has since posted on Facebook he has an appointment with the superintendent set for Tuesday and would be on the board agenda to speak on May 20.
Upon hearing the rock was removed, Kinkade was disappointed it hadn’t been destroyed.
“It seems like it was removed simply to protect the school. It seems like they didn’t consider the victims. It appears that the rock rates higher than the emotional stability of the victims,” he said.
An online petition titled “Support Barry Vance – Remove The Rock” was started May 2 on www.gopetition.com. It states, “We, the undersigned, call on the Paulding Ohio School board to remove the memorial rock regarding past teacher Don Schnepp and form new policy regarding teacher/student relationships.” As of Friday afternoon, the petition had gained more than 500 signatures. Plans call for the petition to be presented to the school board at the May 20 meeting.
The question seems to remain why these students didn’t come forward when the alleged attacks took place. Kinkade has an answer for those skeptics.
“There was a time that I did report it, but it was always dismissed because of the kind of home life I came from and that I was a troubled child, and that would be the end of it.”
There was also a time when Kinkade was in high school and he approached Schnepp about the attack.
“I wanted him to know that I was going to report him and he responded by saying, ‘If you want to report me then go ahead. Who do you think they are going to believe? When people hear about this they are going to say you are gay, so go ahead.’”
Although Vance and Kinkade have not spoken to each other personally, they have communicated on social media. Like Vance, Kinkade has received the support of many. He, too, believes there are many victims.
“There are so many people talking but very few who have firsthand information. We do our best to investigate and report our findings. There are always two sides and if this took place 32 years ago, it will take some time to work through the details, interview victims, and make proper decisions,” said Hanak.