A political fight between two conservative school board members in Ohio turned personal this month when a local magistrate ruled that one cannot come within 500 feet of the other, after claims she harassed him.
The civil stalking protection order, signed by Butler County Magistrate Matthew Reed and Common Pleas Court Judge Greg Howard, came into effect on Sept. 19. It states that Darbi Boddy, a member of the Lakota Board of Education, must stay away from fellow school board member and former political ally, Isaac Adi.
It’s the latest in an ongoing saga surrounding Boddy, who since taking office in 2021 has made headlines for accidentally posting pornography on her social media, been cited for trespassing on school grounds, criticized for using an antisemitic phrase, compared a suicide prevention initiative to a “Nazi handbook,” and been accused by the former school superintendent of “destroying” his career with threats and bullying.
Despite being a minority voice on the school board who is often the sole vote in favor of her own proposals, some local parents believe Boddy’s actions are bringing an otherwise successful school district into disrepute.
“Over time, those issues will start to fracture what is fundamentally good about the district, because board policy affects district practice. And district practice affects academics and what’s happening in the schools,” Benjamin McCall, a local parent, told The Daily Beast. “It’s a nice little box of chaos, that if not addressed, could be a big blow-up.”
McCall believes Boddy’s headline-grabbing behavior and fixation on CRT is distracting the board from more important work, like shepherding the Master Facilities Plan, which will renovate and repair school buildings.
Boddy’s attorney pushed back on these comments to The Daily Beast. “From a common sense perspective, there is nothing mutually exclusive in keeping the fallacies of Critical Race Theory from corrupting children and also pursuing a Master Facilities Plan,” Robert Croskery said.
For her part, Boddy believes she is the victim of a campaign designed to silence her right-wing views and prevent her from serving on the board.
Croskery quickly filed an emergency motion against the protection order, arguing Boddy was being deprived of her right to protected political speech.
“The order essentially bans her from attending public school board meetings, which is her duty as an elected official, because it was brought by a fellow school board member,” Croskery wrote, arguing the order had been filed “precisely to silence her voice at school board meetings.”
On Friday, Judge Howard granted Boddy an emergency stay, meaning she will still be able to attend school board meetings while she appeals the order. However, she must enter the building immediately after she arrives for the meeting and once it’s over, she has to wait for Adi to leave before she can, Fox19 reported.
“I think what this order is about is silencing Darbi Boddy,” Croskery told The Daily Beast. “School boards around America need to be occupied by conservatives as well as those who have been somewhat co-opted by the teacher’s unions.”
Prior to the emergency stay on Friday, two local law enforcement officials, Prosecuting Attorney Michael T. Gmoser and Sheriff Richard K. Jones, released a statement saying they would arrest Boddy if she attended school functions.
“There will be no preferred treatment no matter your elected position, if you violate a civil protection order, you will be arrested on-site,” Gmoser and Jones said in a social media post.
In his request for the protection order, Adi testified that Boddy’s actions had caused him such “mental distress” that he was hospitalized for three days.
“[Boddy] testified that she was concerned that Petitioner no longer espouses the ideas he took office with, ideas which were in conformity with her own beliefs,” the magistrate and judge wrote in comments attached to the order. “Rather than try to work through their differences, or respect Petitioner's possible change of beliefs, Respondent took every opportunity to exert pressure, bully, and, at times, punish Petitioner by embarrassing him in front of others.”
Neither Boddy nor Adi responded to a request for comment for this story.
Betsy Fuller, a spokesperson for the Lakota School District, told The Daily Beast that neither the district nor board were “involved” in the dispute.
“This is a matter between two individual board members. The execution of the order will be up to the courts and law enforcement agencies,” Fuller said.
The Lakota School District in Greater Cincinnati is one of the largest in the state, serving 17,000 students across 23 schools. Butler County leans conservative—Lyndon B. Johnson was the last Democratic presidential candidate to win the county.
Adi and Boddy originally ran together for seats on the school board in Nov. 2021. They shared a platform and set of conservative talking points, both railing against mask mandates in schools and the teaching of “critical race theory,” which Boddy described as “racist.”
Adi also opposed “progressive sex education” in schools, while Boddy opposed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs; and accommodations for transgender students. The duo were part of a surge of right-wing school board candidates across Ohio, many activated by cultural war issues and opposition to COVID-era restrictions.
Though they shared a commitment to the Christian faith, the two candidates come from very different backgrounds. Adi is a Nigerian immigrant who made his career in the oil and gas industry, while Boddy is a mother-of-four who told voters she had worked for 17 years in “retail management” and been a professional bodybuilder prior to running for school board. (The Daily Beast could not independently verify Boddy’s employment history, although she appears to have at one time worked as an independent Mary Kay consultant, according to social media.)
In a video introducing herself to voters in 2021, Boddy said she homeschools her children, “because I didn’t want to send my son or daughter to school in a mask.”
Even as a candidate, Boddy began to make headlines. A month before the election, Boddy invited then U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel, a Trump-loyalist and former state treasurer, to a school board meeting. She yielded her time to Mandel, who began to lambast the board over alleged lack of financial transparency. Then board president Kelley Casper asked Mandel to stop speaking, and he was eventually removed by two Butler County sheriffs.
Adi was elected in Nov. 2021, with 17.3 percent of the vote, followed by Boddy, with 17.1 percent, The Journal-News reported, shifting the tone of the school board to the right.
In her first board meeting in Feb. 2022, during the Omicron surge, Boddy announced her intention to propose changes to student masking and quarantine requirements. The board’s COVID-19 policy contained “divisive language regarding the vaccinated and the unvaccinated,” she said. As she presented her resolution later that month, Boddy claimed that deaths from COVID had been “overstated,” The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Adi interrupted her speech, calling for a vote. Boddy’s resolution was struck down, with every other member of the board voting against her.
It was the first sign of a potential rift between the two former allies.
Instead, Boddy ended up being censured for a far stranger incident, in which she accidentally posted a link to a porn site on her campaign Facebook page. In the post Boddy claimed CRT was being taught in Lakota schools, alongside sex education that included “discussion about masturbating, sex toys, anything taught besides abstinence.” However, a typo meant that instead of linking out to sex education site, Boddy’s post linked to porn.
The story made international headlines, and in response, the school board voted to censure Boddy on April 27, 2022, and request that she resign. Adi voted against Boddy, alongside the other school board members.
Boddy walked out of the meeting, and refused to resign, calling the move a “political ruse.”
In a social media post the following day, Adi wrote that he was “appalled by what is going on,” the Journal-News reported.
“I did not know that Facebook is where I needed to be doing my job as a school board member. I thought we needed experience and to behave with professionalism,” he wrote.
On May 4, 2022, Boddy made an unannounced visit to two local schools. She walked the hallways, taking more than 55 photographs, including one of a child’s drawing reading ‘All Are Welcome Here,” a civil rights movement timeline, and classroom door stickers reading “I Am An Ally,” according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, who later published some of the images.
Miller, the superintendent, said the visit was unauthorized and disruptive. The district issued Boddy a trespassing notice, which her attorney contested. Boddy insisted she was just doing her job as a school board member.
Four months later, the school board announced that Miller was under investigation to determine that he was “not a threat to students and staff.” It was revealed that the Sheriff’s Department had been investigating Miller following a complaint from a member of the public, but found no “credible evidence of wrongdoing,” according to board president Lynda O’Connor.
The accusations against Miller appeared to stem from documents filed as part of an acrimonious divorce with his ex-wife, who accused him of inappropriate “role-play” and “pillow-talk” regarding minors. The police ultimately decided there was no probable cause to suspect Miller had committed any crime.
“The police have confirmed that, at the very least, our superintendent Matt Miller has sexual desires that he acts on in ways that are corrupting of others and puts himself and others in psychological and physical danger,” Boddy told the Enquirer.
The board decided to bring in an outside third-party law firm to review the facts of the case. They ultimately concluded there was no reason to suspect him of wrongdoing. Miller then agreed to a psychological examination to determine whether he was “fit” to continue in his role, which he also passed.
But by Jan. 2023, Miller said he could not go on any longer. In a public letter published Jan. 18, Miller said he was offering his resignation as superintendent because of the “increasingly hostile work environment created by Ms. Boddy.”
“I remain frustrated that the Board as a whole did not protect me and my family from Ms. Boddy and her harassment, which has continued to this day. She has outright lied about me in public meetings, executive sessions, and in official interactions with citizens. The efforts to which she and others went to achieve my resignation have terrified me and my family,” Miller wrote. “Her crusade to force me to resign is direct retaliation for my efforts to protect Lakota students of all genders and races from her destructive efforts.”
The rift between Adi and Boddy became more pronounced as they differed in response to the investigation into Miller.
In April, the two attended a Florida conference organized by the Leadership Institute, which trains conservative activists. While there, Boddy “was abusive” towards Adi in a series of “harassing confrontations,” he wrote in court filings.
In one incident, Boddy got up on stage in front of conference attendees and made a speech criticizing Adi. In her testimony to the magistrates court, Boddy admitted she had made the remarks, even reading them out to the court.
“This man right here is not a conservative,” Boddy said of Adi in her speech. “He voted to harm our children by voting to mask our students and push vaccines. He supported a pedophile superintendent, voted to get rid of public comment in a board meeting, and is currently allowing boys to use the girls’ bathroom, and will not protect our daughters’ competitive athletics and is allowing the indoctrination of our students through SEL and DEI.”
Croskery, Boddy’s attorney, said she was merely exercising her First Amendment rights.
“She called [Miller’s] activities the sort that would be done by a pedophile,” Croskery said of her statements. “They are political speech. She has the right to say that he was a pedophile.”
Another incident cited by Adi in his application for a protective order was caught on camera by Boddy herself. A video posted to her campaign Facebook page shows Boddy following Adi out of a building after the June 13 executive board meeting.
“Did you say my brain is empty, Isaac?” Boddy asks Adi as he attempts to leave the building.
“I did not say that,” Adi says.
(Boddy later accused Adi of assault during this confrontation as he swatted her phone away from him. The sheriff's office later dismissed the complaint.)
For her part, Boddy has made only a brief comment on the ongoing dispute between her and Adi.
“I wish Isaac Adi well, and always have,” she wrote on Facebook on Sept. 21. “I will continue to fill my legal duties to my constituents as well as I can in light of this unprecedented order.”
Unless Boddy’s appeal against the protective order is granted, she is banned from coming within 500 feet of Adi until September 2025, with a current exception for school board meetings while the protective order is appealed.
Landon Meador, 22, a former student in the Lakota School District, has watched Boddy’s career since he was a senior in high school. He says the Lakota School Board is a good example of “why local elections matter.”
“These people have more impact day to day than a senator, these people have a direct pulse on what’s happening in the community,” Meador told The Daily Beast. “The unhinged derangement that [Boddy] has shown has only gotten worse.”
Meador says he received a lot of support personally from the previous school board: “They built me into who I am today.”
But during Boddy’s tenure, he says, things have changed.
“It’s putting the district at harm,” Meador says. “Everyone is laughing at us.”