Education — March 2, 2015 at 8:49 am

UPDATED: More on Brighton tea party school who had “open house” attendee arrested for past opposition


NOTE: This story has been updated HERE and HERE.

Yesterday, in a post that has gone somewhat viral, I reported about how the owner of a proposed tea party charter school in Brighton, Michigan had an attendee, Glenn Ikens, arrested at what they called an “open house” because of his previous opposition to their efforts to be chartered by the Brighton Area Schools. Ikens was taken out of the facility in handcuffs.

This morning WHMI radio has more on the story:

Jay McNally, a spokesman for the proposed Livingston Classical Academy, said the simple fact of Ikens past criticism of Battaglia and the school was enough to warrant his removal. “Mr. Ikens has repeatedly given inaccurate information about LCA and we believe is is not a mistake that he repeatedly misrepresents simple facts about us and our effort.” […]

Ikens wife, Sue Ellen, went to the meeting about an hour and a half later and questioned why her husband had been arrested. She was then asked to leave by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy. She claims he failed to properly identify himself and after being escorted out of the school, went to the Brighton Police to file a complaint. An officer followed her back to the school and determined that the person in question was indeed a deputy. McNally says that in the spirit of forgiveness, Mr. Battaglia has no intention to press charges. He added that the decision to be arrested was entirely Mr. Ikens’s choice and that he could have simply walked out of the building peacefully when asked. Ikens says that Battaglia and the LCA propose to be a charter school and obtain public tax dollars to fund their school, and that their behavior in trying to silence an opposition voice is inconsistent with being a public institution.

Battaglia’s largesse at not “pressing charges” notwithstanding, it’s very telling that this group is attempting to suppress opposition voices at the so-called “open house”. The invitation to the event, which reads “Come one, come all!” makes it clear that it was intended to educate people in the Brighton community about their school and that they would “answer many of your questions” and that “everyone’s attendance is important.”

The fact that they had hired an off-duty sheriff’s deputy to be on hand makes it very clear that they were anticipating opposition and took steps to quash it.

Yes, this is a building owned by a private individual and that Glenn Ikens was engaging in an act of civil disobedience. Having Ikens arrested for trespassing was certainly within their right. But their choice to do so speaks volumes about their integrity, their credibility, and their veracity when it comes to their intent. It shows that they want their version and only their version of the story out and even people who live just a couple of blocks from the proposed charter school like Glenn and Sue Ellen Ikens aren’t welcome to ask questions Battaglia and his associates don’t want asked.

If the Lindbom Livingston Classical Academy organizers are truly interested in becoming a public school in Brighton – despite past declarations that they want a school that is “autonomous from the government and the government run public school systems” – they are going to have to put up with the pesky process of transparency and public engagement, even when the people engaging with them don’t agree with their actions. That’s the price of admission when you want to use Michigan taxpayer dollars to further your agenda and political ideology.

Their next goal is to get Livingston County’s intermediate school district board to charter their tea party charter school after the BAS declined to do so. Battaglia’s associate in this effort is former BAS board chair Nick Fiani who unexpectedly quit the board with the stated intent of getting on the ISD board, presumably to help Battaglia to get his school chartered by them. It’s worth noting that Fiani was present at the “open house” on Saturday where Ikens was arrested and photos have appeared on Facebook of him standing at the front of the room with the presenters at the “open house”:

Nick Fiani at LCA “open house”

Another person at the “open house” is current BAS board member John Conely. Like Fiani, Conely has been a vocal supporter of Battaglia’s efforts and he stormed out of a recent board meeting when the BAS board chose not take a vote to charter the LCA. He was the only board member to vote in favor of chartering the group.

BAS board member John Conley at LCA “open house”

Parents in the BAS district are rightfully asking why Conely is supportive of a school that will compete for students and resources with the district he works for and represents as a board member. His position seems like a very clear conflict of interest.

There will be much more to this story and you can be sure I’ll be watching the developments very closely and reporting on them as they transpire. While the LCA organizers, Pasquale Battaglia, John Conely, and Nick Fiani may wish to keep things from the public and to operate in the shadows, I will not let that happen.

UPDATE: Here is video of Sue Ellen Ikens’ visit to the “open house” to ask when they would release her husband. In the video, insultingly titled “Crazy Lady” on YouTube, you can see her mocked by the good patriots of the Lindbom Livingston Classical Academy for pointing out that they are holding a public event for what they are calling a public school on private property and kicking out people who don’t agree with them. They then applaud when she is removed:

Toward the end of the video BAS board member John Conely (in a grey sweatshirt) can be seen at the event and he appears to be telling the person shooting the video not to do so.

[Graphic by Vectorportal | Wikipedia]