FAIRFIELD TWP., Ohio – Two parents say they are happy there will be new leadership at Fairfield City Schools next fall after months of claims and furor about bullying at the school.
Middle School Principal Lincoln Butts is resigning at the end of the school year for "personal reasons," according to the school district. Last month, Superintendent Paul Otten announced he is leaving to become head of Beavercreek Schools.
Butts, Otten are other school officials are defendants in a federal lawsuit filed by the parents of Emilie Olsen, a 13-year-old middle schooler who shot and killed herself in 2014. The Olsens' lawsuit claims Emilie died as a result of bullying by other students, and Otten, Butts and others did nothing to stop it.
Fairfield parent Ray Schmitz, who claims his own daughter was bullied at school, says he is elated.
"In the aftermath of the Emily Olsen suicide related to bullying at our schools, the Fairfield Middle School administration under his leadership played an enormous role in that. And, as a result of that, we needed some changes and this is a sign that maybe changes are on the way," Schmitz said.
"No matter what the reasons are for it (Butts' resignation), I'm happy that he will no longer be in charge of 2,000 of our middle school students."
Despite denials by Otten and Fairfield City School officials, the history of students bullying Emilie Olsen has been well-documented through WCPO I-Team investigations.
The Olsens' lawsuit also accuses Butts of going to the Olsen house with two Fairfield Township Police officers to try to get her parents to quit talking to the media. The lawsuit specifically accuses Butts of trespass and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Schmitz recalled another incident cited in the lawsuit.
"He's played 'Another One Bites The Dust' by Queen to announce a staff meeting about Emilie Olsen's one-year anniversary of her suicide -- the vigil we were going to have for her. It's inexcusable," Schmitz said.
"Regardless of why he's leaving, it's a good thing," said Lou Doty, a friend of both the Olsen and Schmitz families. "It gives the district an opportunity to start over, clear the plate and make some positive changes.
"The administration needs to follow their own rules on bullying," Doty said. "There needs to be zero tolerance. When a child is bullied, it needs to be taken very, very seriously. The parents of the child being bullied need to be contacted immediately, which they were not in this case."
The school district isn't commenting because of the pending lawsuit, but maintains it has district-wide bullying policies in place that are being followed.
Schmitz hopes new leadership fulfills that promise.
"It looks like there's been some changes with the school board trying to make an effort to change things around, and we welcome any changes they can make," he said.
WCPO asked Fairfield Township Police Chief Matt Fruchey about Butts' contact with the Olsens.
He said his officers were doing interviews at the middle school and Butts followed them when they went to the house.
Fruchey says the officers were investigating a death and nothing done was meant to intimidate.
He said he has apologized to the Olsens.
"Another One Bites The Dust"
The Olsens' lawsuit criticized Butts for playing the Queen song at a meeting of Fairfield Middle School officials and employees over which he presided nearly a year after Emilie's death.
The meeting was called to discuss the upcoming memorial service for Emilie, the lawsuit said.
Butts played the song "in a callous and blatant exhibition of disrespect for Emilie Olsen and her friends and family," the suit said.
In an email exchange with a member of Schmitz, Butts acknowledged playing the song during end-of-the day announcements but said it didn't happen at the staff meeting and didn't have anything to do with Emilie.
"Sorry, but that is incorrect," Butts wrote. "I (we) said nothing about Emilie or her vigil. I did play the song to remind my staff of the unscheduled staff meeting. A staff member asked for the song and I played it. I play songs Friday mornings and sometimes after school to celebrate the great things we have here at FMS. Thanks."
OUR INVESTIGATION: How bullying played a part in Emilie's death