Buckeye Local BOE wrestles with gun issue

DILLONVALE — “He made the threat that he could get a gun and take it into the school. Not somebody could: he would.

“I don’t know what his mindset was. He made the threat and I had to react to it. I put your school on lockdown for a day and a half. We spent a day and a half at your school – the Wells Township Police Department did.

“The teachers were scared then and they are scared today,” Wells Township Police Chief John Ingram told members of the Buckeye Local School District Board of Education during a discussion on a move by member Joe Zelek to officially reverse a year-old ban barring a resident of Brilliant from being on school district grounds or property or from attending any school or related functions.

The newly seated board was asked by Zelek to take immediate action on his request.

“How can they be afraid of someone who runs a daycare center that’s adjacent to the school,” Zelek said.

“Talk to your principal and your teachers,” Ingram told Zelek.

After several failed attempts to determine what next step under Roberts Rules of Order were now available, a consensus was reached and a decision made that the staff at North Elementary should attend the next board meeting to voice their personal views about the proposed lifting of the ban.

Board President James Cesario moved to table Zelek’s motion to lift the ban on Dale Dollison being barred from Buckeye’s district buildings and events.

It was quickly seconded by Buckeye Local School District Board Member Brad McFadden.

The only dissenting vote on the motion to table Zelek’s effort to lift the ban was the one he recorded himself.

The four remaining board members voted in favor of tabling the motion to lift the ban.

A decision was reached to invite the staff from North Elementary to attend the next school board meeting to share their personal views on the proposal by Zelek to lift the ban on access for Dollison.

Principal of North Elementary Susan Nolan recently confirmed details of the reaction by the building’s personnel to the invitation from the board to attend the February board meeting in mass.

In the days immediately following the first board meeting of the calendar year, and by an overwhelming majority of the 47 people eligible to participate in a vote on the question of lifting the ban or continuing to keep it in place, 34 voted not to lift it and two voted in favor of seeing it lifted. Several other votes were cast with individual results.

The votes will be brought to the next board meeting and will be presented to the board by a representative selected from among the personnel at North Elementary to make that delivery and to share details of the collective answer to the question of what is it they want to see done with Zelek’s proposed lifting of the ban.

Exactly why Zelek is championing an official reversal of a ban imposed by the board on Dollison, a Brilliant resident, a year ago after he was arrested for allegedly making threatening statements outside a local elementary school that he could successfully get a gun inside the building undetected, continues to be unclear.

Dollison recently ran unsuccessfully as a candidate for a seat on the Buckeye Local School District Board of Education.

Zelek made a motion to initiate the ban reversal at January’s board meeting, offering comments describing the situation that brought about the arrest and the man’s subsequent ban from the school district’s properties and from any of its activities as having been a “misunderstanding.”

“He was making a comment on safety. He made a comment to someone that anyone could take a gun and go into that building – or that even he could take a gun and go into that building – and from that it got extrapolated into a misunderstanding that he threatened someone – which he never did,” said Zelek.

After several minutes of pointed exchanges and outbursts, including some made by Cesario, he asked that discussions on the topic be moved to executive session and was told the situation and related request met none of the requirements stipulated by law needing met before moving a conversation into closed door or executive sessions.

Cesario then recorded his support for Zelek’s motion requesting the ban be lifted.

“Why do you want this person to be in our school when we are trying to protect the children,” was veteran board member Naoma Kolkedy’s question on the proposed reversal plan.

“I spoke with Mr. Dollison on numerous occasions throughout the campaign trail, and I do not perceive him as any threat. I don’t perceive him as a threat any more than any other individual,” said Cesario. “I did not perceive him as a potential threat in what he said.”

There was no legal finding made in the case as the matter was later dropped by the court due to a question concerning the level of the appropriate charge. To date, no new charge has been brought forward.

“It’s a great misunderstanding. It’s unfortunate; and his family has suffered for it. I think it’s time to end all that. The charges were all dropped. They’re good upstanding citizens,” said Zelek.

Board member Dirk Pielech, attending his first meeting as a school board member, asked several questions about the matter including: were charges brought, did it go to court, and what was the outcome of that process.

Pielech specifically asked two men in attendance for their respective opinions about Zelek’s proposal to reverse the ban and the direct threat and or impact such action could potentially have on the school, students, and community.

Pielech put his request for individual opinions on the matter to the local police chief whose department executed the arrest; and to one of the most highly trained, nationally and internationally experienced and successful risk assessment and mitigation planning subject matter experts available worldwide – whether you are looking into the military or civilian arenas.

Neither man hesitated to answer the request for feedback from Pielech.

They were Ingram and retired U.S. Navy SEAL Senior Chief Frank Hoagland, CEO and Founder of S.T.A.R.T. (Special Tactics and Rescue Training) headquartered in Mingo Junction. The firm was hired in September to conduct an in-depth all risk assessment of the district’s buildings and to develop proposals to mitigate as many of the risks as possible. Any final implementation of any recommendations would have to follow gaining board approval.

Zelek entered the initial motion under non-agenda items during the school board’s early January meeting, just days past the anniversary of Dollison having been arrested on what was originally a second degree felony charge of inducing panic. The charge that brought a bond set at $50,000 after an incident outside Buckeye North Elementary School during which he allegedly made to another adult about the ease with which he could convey a gun into the building undetected.

“I don’t think he made a threat – he made a comment that the access was not good – that he could take a gun in the school,” said Zelek.

“Why is he pushing for a board vote to get this man – Dale Dollison – the okay to be back in the school and on school property,” offered Nolan, principal of Buckeye North Elementary, after the long time school board member initiated action at the board meeting earlier this month aimed at lifting the ban imposed on the Brilliant resident and daycare owner/operator approximately a year ago as the result of an incident on the school grounds.

The action initiated by Zelek at the January board meeting brought a definitive response from teachers at that building as they showed by a vote that a clear majority were not supporting the move to allow Dollison renewed access to the building.

However, it was not a unanimous vote, but was clearly overwhelming in support of maintaining the ban.

Dollison’s statements on this point were allegedly made while he was on the school grounds to pick up several children for his family’s day care who attend class at the local elementary.

At the time he was taken into custody by Wells Township Police Department personnel for having allegedly said he would be able to bring a gun into the elementary school undetected, the police report noted Dollison was not carrying any firearms.

“Not that he could: it was that he would,” said Chief Ingram, whose actions concerning taking Dollison into custody, were guided by the Jefferson County prosecuting attorney’s office.

Hoagland of S.T.A.R.T candidly responded to Pielech’s request for his professional opinion – his risk assessment that might accompany a lifting of the ban.

“You’ve already got it: he is a a person who identified himself as a potential threat.”

Loccisano can be reached at kimfromthetl@gmail.com