EDITORIAL: Northeastern board owes explanation

The York Dispatch

Students can be kicked out of school for any number of things administrators deem dangerous or disruptive.

Shawn Minnich

Suspensions or expulsions often are clearly warranted, such as in cases involving weapons, drugs or alcohol.

Other times, students end up facing harsh punishments for offenses that, on close examination, amount to little more than kids being kids.

It doesn’t matter. This is the age of zero tolerance, and school officials often say their hands are tied when it comes to discipline.

But that apparently doesn’t apply to administrators themselves in the Northeastern School District, where the school board has been remarkably tolerant of a superintendent charged in a domestic violence case.

Northeastern school superintendent's certificate suspended

Tolerant – and silent.

The board and its solicitor have repeatedly refused comment to The York Dispatch about Shawn Minnich’s arrest last December on charges of burglary, making terroristic threats, simple assault, criminal trespass, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and harassment.

Minnich, 44, of Nursery Road in Conewago Township, is accused of bursting into the home of his estranged wife and physically assaulting her boyfriend on Dec. 4.

He was freed on bail and simply continued with his duties.

Nothing changed in February, when a count of aggravated assault was added to Minnich’s list of charges during a preliminary hearing.

The addition of a felony charge prompted the state Department of Education to file in March for "the immediate suspension of Mr. Minnich's teaching certificate and employment eligibility."

Still the board kept quiet, and the superintendent kept working.

The silence grew deafening earlier this month when the Professional Standards and Practices Commission, which is an arm of the state Department of Education, voted 6-3 to suspend Minnich's teaching certificate, making him ineligible to be superintendent.

While the school board still had no comment, Minnich’s attorney said he expected his client to remain on the job until the commission releases its opinion in writing.

That written opinion should be coming any day now, meaning – barring a successful appeal by Minnich – the state Education Department will have done what the Northeastern school board should have done as soon as its members first learned of the charges.

Due to their silence, we have no idea what the school board members were thinking, but it appears they failed to grasp the seriousness of the allegations.

York County has a significant problem with domestic violence, regularly ranking third in the state for numbers of annual domestic murders, according to the local Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team.

At the time of Minnich’s alleged crime, the county was ending one of the worst years in decades for domestic violence homicides. Four men murdered their domestic partners or former partners in 2015 before turning their guns on themselves – and in two cases the gunman also claimed a second victim before committing suicide.

Given the nature and seriousness of the charges against Minnich, the school board should have relieved him of his duties pending the outcome of the case.

The Northeastern community — students, parents and taxpayers — deserve an explanation for why it did not.