Education — March 3, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Mainstream media begins to pick up story of conservative charter school group having opponent arrested at “Open House”


NOTE: All of my reporting on this issue can be found HERE.

Four days after the self-described conservative group Livingston Classical Academy (formerly Lindbom Classical Academy) had a vocal opponent, Glenn Ikens, arrested for refusing to leave their “open house”, mainstream media outlets are beginning to report on it. The Detroit News has light coverage HERE and the Livingston County Press & Argus has more in-depth coverage HERE. WHMI Radio expanded their coverage HERE.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this reporting is a statement Livingston Classical Academy spokesperson Jay McNally gave to the Livingston County Press & Argus:

“In the spirit of forgiveness, we don’t intend to press charges. We pray for Glenn Ikens and his wife that they will find healing, and we invite him and anyone else to hear about what we are doing,” McNally said. “We have nothing to hide.”

Ikens responded to this saying, “You know, I find it interesting about reaching out to sit down (and talk) because I showed up and they had me arrested.”

He’s 100% correct, of course. If the LCA people were sincere, they would have, at the very least, waited to have Ikens arrested after he had actually done something disruptive. The key point here is that he had done nothing at the meeting or in the past that could be considered disruptive. He has been quite outspoken, of course, appearing at Brighton Area Schools board meetings and using his First Amendment right to speak his mind. But passionate speech in a public venue is hardly worthy of being described as “a very disruptive and belligerent person”. And that is exactly how he has been described by LCA head Pasquale Battaglia.

Here is Mr. McNally’s comments on the Press & Argus piece:

Mr. Ikens was not asked to leave the meeting because of his opinions, which are well known to everyone at LCA. He was asked to leave because he posed a threat to the safety of the people (including upwards of 40 children in the room), in the judgment of the owner of the building.

Below is the text of the statement given to the Brighton Police Dept. by Mr. Battaglia at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday:

“At a private event at a building my company, American Classical Academy Brighton Holding LLC, owns and that I am Managing Director of, a gentleman, Mr. Glen Ikens, entered our building uninvited. I pleasantly introduced myself as the building owner and asked Mr. Ikens to please leave. He refused. I persisted and he further refused. I then called Brighton PD to intercede.

“Mr. Ikens has been a very disruptive and belligerent person to me through the media. Based on his attitude I feared for my safety and that of our guests.”

Mr. Battaglia’s fears are based on the raw personal hatred against him expressed by Mr. Ikens in public, recorded comments and in articles he has written. I am linking to the video of the Aug. 25 video from the Brighton school board meeting in which Mr. Ikens loses his composure as he angrily demonizes Mr. Battaglia and LCA. Mrs. Ikens proved that our fears of a disrupution at the meeting by our opponents was correct. The pertinent segment is at the 20-minute mark in the video.

(I have preserved screenshots of Mr. McNally’s comments HERE and HERE.)

This is the video he links in his comment. Glenn Ikens comments begin at the 17:33 mark (near to where I have this video starting):

Passionate? Yes. Outspoken and negative. Yes. Disruptive or threatening? Not even close. His remarks were made during the public comments section of a board meeting and he stayed within his allotted time. Period. This characterization of him and Mr. Battaglia’s feigned fear of personal harm from Ikens is overblown and hyperbolic. And, as Mr. McNally proved in his “rebuttal” posted here yesterday, much of this appears to be a vitriolic response to anti-union zealots.

Keep in mind, the invitation that went out called the event an “Open House” where “Everyone’s attendance is important”, an invitation that declared “Come one, come all!”:

Click image for a larger version

WHMI’s coverage references Sue Ellen Ikens’ appearance at the meeting, distraught and upset after having her children witness her husband’s arrest and asking why they had had her husband arrested, references points I made yesterday about BAS school board member John Conely and his conflict of interest in supporting a charter school that will compete for BAS students and resources:

[T]he video has some questioning what they feel was a conflict of interest and inappropriate behavior from Conely as a public servant. The video clearly shows Conely laughing out loud when Sue Ellen was made to leave, but he quickly composed himself after noticing he was being recorded by someone in the audience. Conely then appears to tell the person to stop recording. […]

Pat Battaglia, the real estate developer who purchased the old Lindbom elementary school, claims to be just the landlord for the LCA. However, some believe he’s much more than that. Battaglia operates the LCA’s parent organization, “American Classical Academies,” which was formerly known as “American Christian Academies.” That has lent credibility to arguments that LCA organizers desire to put forth a religious-based curriculum under the guise of a public school, while also potentially attracting students from Brighton. That has added further questions about the propriety of Conely’s participation.

Given the LCA’s supposed concern about the children present at the meeting, one wonders how they felt when Sue Ellen Ikens was ridiculed, mocked, and manhandled during the meeting by a crowd that proceeded to laugh and applaud when she was removed. For a group of people who claim to honor our nation’s Constitution, they seem to have little regard for free speech or for dissent. The people who laughed and mocked and applauded should feel shame, not pride. They’re behavior in front of those children was an embarrassment.

[CC photo credit: Jennifer Moo | Flickr]