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Mailbag: It’s unethical to report uncomfortable facts about Waynesboro school hires

Chris Graham
online troll bully
(© terovesalainen – stock.adobe.com)

The new assistant principal at Waynesboro High School, Joshua Herndon, resigned his post as principal at an Ohio high school in 2022 as he was being investigated for sexual misconduct on school grounds.

The bad guy in this scenario: me, for the reporting on that.

“Could you please have journalistic integrity and look at all facts in holistic manner and not do attacks of people’s character with unethical reporting practices?” wrote Eric Dixon, a business teacher at Kate Collins Middle School in Waynesboro, where Herndon served as school principal from 2018-2020.

“You wrote in a manner to get people to click and do not tell the whole story, but write in ambiguous ways to let people’s bias draw conclusions instead of you doing things like, providing evidence and not broad assumptions that are unfounded,” Dixon wrote on the AFP Facebook page.

I tried to get Dixon to expound on his view of the “unethical reporting practices” that I’m guilty of, which led to an answer that the issue was reporting on “allegations, not facts. Which goes against the rule of innocent until proven guilty.”

Thing is, it’s a fact that Herndon, then the principal at Southeast High School in Ravenna, Ohio, and Amber Vankirk, a data coach, had been put on paid administrative leave on Nov. 30, 2022, pending an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct.

A Jan. 4, 2023, report in the Kent, Ohio,-based Record-Courier cited letters from the school system’s superintendent, Bob Dunn, informing Herndon and Vankirk that an investigation was being conducted “into your alleged misconduct involving another Board employee at the High School on November 30, 2022,” and referred to the issue as “alleged sexual misconduct.”

The letters, according to the newspaper, warned that discipline, “up to and including termination,” could occur as a result of the alleged misconduct.

Both Herndon and Vankirk submitted resignation letters on Dec. 12, according to the Jan. 4, 2023, Record-Courier report.

So, fact, Herndon and Vankirk placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct.

Fact: Herndon and Vankirk were warned that they could be fired, pending the findings of that investigation.

And then, fact: they both resigned before that investigation was completed.

Whether they were “innocent” or “guilty” of the allegations of sexual misconduct “involving another Board employee at the High School on November 30, 2022” was rendered moot when they each resigned their positions.

The report on this matter, “New Waynesboro High School hire left Ohio job due to sexual-misconduct allegations,” is pretty straightforward, just the facts, ma’am, journalism.

Journalism, like a lot of things, is in the eye of the beholder.

“I get it if your journalistic style is to get as many clicks as possible for revenue, but have more journalistic integrity, and get facts, not assumptions, and attack people’s character. Not respectable,” Dixon wrote on our Facebook page, adding in a follow-up comment that I “seem on paper to not have integrity or character, or … are that moral of person.”

Later, and I swear I’m not making this up, Dixon reached out to me to ask if I wanted to meet for coffee or lunch.

As you can guess, I declined, citing my lack of “integrity,” “character” and how I’m not “that moral of a person,” among other things.

Seriously, is this what Waynesboro Public Schools thinks is appropriate in terms of its pushback against reporting that it doesn’t like?

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].