Tiffin, Ohio — The Tiffin Columbian High School Athletic Hall of Fame committee’s decision to allow a convicted sex offender to participate in the induction of this year’s new honorees has sparked controversy in the community, but who is the woman at the center of the situation?
Over the weekend, the Hall of Fame committee, which is a separate entity from the school district, recognized this year’s Hall of Fame inductees including the 1998 girls basketball team — which includes a person who was previously removed from the Hall of Fame as an individual member due to what the committee described as a “legal and ethical violation involving sexual misconduct.”
In a statement released to the public via the Tiffin City Schools website, the Hall of Fame committee said while they recognize “this may be a sensitive issue for some in the community, [they] believe that all members of the 1998 girls basketball team have the right to the included as part of this team induction.”
The woman in question is 39-year-old Katie A. Fazekas, a former teacher in Carey Schools and the former girls’ basketball coach at Columbian High School.
Fazekas, who attended Columbian and played on the girls’ basketball team back in 1998, was sentenced in 2014 to 17 months in prison after being convicted of attempted sexual battery, a fourth-degree felony.
The conviction resulted from a Tiffin Police Department investigation in cooperation with the Carey Police Department, Seneca County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Wyandot County Prosecutor’s Office.
The investigation revealed a sexual relationship between Fazekas and a 17-year-old Carey High School student.
According to Seneca County Prosecutor Derek DeVine, the investigation started as a result of reports to the Carey school administration and the Carey Police Department in March 2014.
The investigation later expanded to Tiffin and revealed that Fazekas had been involved in a sexual relationship with the student during the summer of 2013 and into the 2013-2014 school year.
Fazekas is registered Tier III sex offender and currently resides in Granville, Ohio.
As part of her sentencing, Fazekas also executed a permanent voluntary surrender of her teaching license.
Sources tell TiffinOhio.net that Fazekas chose not to attend Friday night’s Hall of Fame game, but she did attend an induction banquet on Saturday. Following public criticism of the committee’s decision to include Fazekas, students were reportedly uninvited from the induction banquet to accommodate her.
The Tiffin Columbian High School Athletic Hall of Fame committee released a statement Wednesday in which they offered a “sincere apology” for their decision.
“As a committee, we attempted to honor the outstanding accomplishments of a team. Unfortunately, we did not meet the expectations of the community,” the committee wrote in a statement signed by committee co-chairs Daniel Hartsel and Larry Kisabeth. “As a committee we did not do enough to advocate for the survivors and their families that were affected.”
The committee said they “did not fully consider the impact of this decision and how it would affect the community as a whole.”
“We are sorry that this did not meet community expectations. The committee will be re-evaluating the process within the month of September,” the statement reads. “Again, the committee offers a formal apology on this situation and will work diligently to ensure that the nominations and future inductees are held to the highest standards of our community.”
On Tuesday, Tiffin City Schools Superintendent Michael Zalar released a statement in which he also apologized for the Hall of Fame committee’s decision, although the district does not have direct authority over the committee.
“The decision by the selection committee to include a member of the team who was previously removed as an individual member of the Hall of Fame for sexual misconduct was a mistake,” Zalar wrote in his statement. “It was also a mistake to invite this person onto school grounds and include them as a participant in the recognition ceremony.”
Zalar said in moving forward, he would like to use this “unfortunate situation” as an opportunity to address “not only this specific issue, but other issues involving the safety, health, and wellbeing of our students, staff, and community.”
“I am committed to working with all members of our community to ensure that your voice is heard and Tiffin City Schools is doing everything it can to promote a safe and healthy learning environment for our students,” Zalar wrote.
Dr. Meagan McBride, a member of the Tiffin City Board of Education, said she believes “this never should have happened.”
“I do not believe this error falls on any one person, instead I think it is a series of events that point to a larger culture that needs to be addressed,” McBride wrote in an open letter shared with the Tiffin City Board of Education and the district administration. “And while I understand these conversations are difficult and uncomfortable, we cannot remain silent. The conversations have to continue, change must be enacted, and I am committed to doing better for our students and community.”
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