The fallout has not settled regarding a district substitute’s tirade on April 3 and how it was handled.

While board members are re-examining a campus ban on John Curlej, issued after he was ejected from a meeting two weeks ago, family members at Tuesday’s Windber school board meeting maintained his disorderly conduct citation is “unfair.”

They said the 26-year-old is exploring legal options after his photo apparently was posted in schools and online.

It’s an issue that, much like suggestions to tackle Windber’s financial troubles, is dividing community residents – and to some degree, the board itself.

Consider Tuesday’s moves, for example:

n Board member Rebecca Haman’s motion to ask police to drop Curlej’s summary count, similar to a traffic violation, was  denied by a 7-2 vote.

n The district voted unanimously to allow him to attend sporting events for his niece and nephew, provided he first calls for administrators’ permission.

The move, pushed by pleas from Curlej’s family and dozens of supporters,  is meant to be temporary while the board determines what, if anything, his “ban” should include.

n Support also appeared to exist on a motion to reallow him to attend district events, such as soccer games or graduation, but members voted to table the matter for review.

At the same time, board officials suggested they need to step back and develop policy to address and prevent any similar instances in the future at the school.

“That’s something we need to look at,” board President Timothy Tokarsky said.

He spoke after Haman said she believed “we, as a district, also could have handled the situation better.”

“I think the board wants to take a step back and look at it,” added Superintendent Rick Huffman.

“It’s about finding a solution that’s reasonable but in the best interests of everyone.”

Board members indicated finding a solution might be tricky. Tuesday’s meeting drew a crowd of 75 residents. Some applauded attempts to see Curlej’s charge withdrawn while others stayed silent.

Paint Township police cited Curlej after he disrupted the April 3 meeting and shouted angrily, ignoring requests to calm down.

Tokarsky was one of several on the board who worried that asking police to drop the summary count could set a precedent condoning such behavior at a meeting.

“I saw a father shuffle children from the room,” Tokarsky said, adding that it may have been “a blip” in Curlej’s life but one that created a “tense situation” that scared some in the crowd.

Board member Barry Hostetler agreed.

“We can’t just let anyone show up and act like that,” he said.

Curlej, in an interview with The Tribune-Democrat last week, reiterated his apology to the district and said he would have handled himself differently if he had to do it over again.

“I made a mistake. If they want to ban me from meetings, that’s fine. I’d understand that,” he said.

“But disorderly conduct. That’s going overboard, I think.”

Curlej worries that the disorderly conduct citation, a summary offense similar to a traffic ticket, could make it difficult for him to find a teaching job.

On Wednesday, he had no comment when asked about whether he may take legal action.

Family, including his mother, Olga, argued that some in the district are slandering Curlej as a “dangerous” man, saying photos were posted warning that he is prohibited from entering the school.

Huffman said no one in the district was told to post the picture in hallways or throughout the school, indicating he was unaware that happened.  

He said a print of Curlej was given to the maintenance department – which has happened in the past when individuals were banned from campus.

It’s a necessary step, he said, because not everyone on campus is recognizable.

But the Curlej family showed a copy of one image posted on a social network, saying it apparently spread.

They demanded to know how that happened. Huffman and other district officials said they had no idea.

“If someone (in the district) spread it,” he said. “They broke confidentiality (policy).”


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