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Defamation lawsuit filed against Beech Grove school board member, Mayoral candidate

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Posted at 2:52 PM, Oct 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-19 18:35:13-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A defamation lawsuit has been filed against Beech Grove School Board member and Republican candidate in next month's Beech Grove Mayoral election, Rick Skirvin.

According to the lawsuit, Skirvin allegedly targeted several students by taking pictures of them and sending them to the district's superintendent and school resource office after believing they had stolen candy from a local store.

The incident, as explained in the lawsuit occurred on a Saturday out of school hours between a CVS and Walgreens store in Beech Grove.

It states, the boys were riding their bikes together. The lawsuit states one of the boys bought a bag of sour gummy worms from a local CVS. The boys then rode to Walgreens, went inside, but didn't find anything they wanted to buy.

On Oct. 9, parents of the students filed suit.

"If you want to take further action, call the police that person. [Rick Skirvin] took his position of being on the board and decided, hey let me let me get the school involved
and this is an off the school problem first of all, so that's an issue. Are you the judge, jury and then did you convict them then? Because now, words convict people even innocent people too," said father Peter Lee.

"The problem with accusations comes down to the history of accusations and how it impacts young men. in particular, young men of color," said mother Ebony Lee.

"It's just extremely upsetting for us. We have worked for two months to get an apology some type of accountability for our children. We have
talked to the school, met with the superintendent, been to two board meetings and haven't received any response or resolution or apology that our boys deserve," said mother Kelly Herron. "Now our boys know what it's like to be falsely accused of a crime is this is not OK. We will not stop until we get the justice we deserve."

"It's been difficult. It's been emotional we've had a lot of conversations with our children that you don't want to have," said mother Carron Stephens.

Attorney Joe Williams said the families are attempting to hold Skirvin accountable by filing suit for defamation.

"What that means is when you say something about another person, the law allows you to one, bring a lawsuit for defamation to seek a declaration that these kids didn't do anything wrong and two seek money damages for the damage done," said Williams. "The next step is for Mr. Skrivin required by law to respond. He has to declare is that true of false."

Skirvin's attorney, Aaron Freeman, said Skirvin didn't do anything wrong.

"People don't want to get involved in a legal system or in the criminal justice system. Now we're talking about an alleged incident over some candy. I mean, this is certainly not rising to the level of the crime of the century or anything close to that," Freeman said. "But again, when somebody sees something... my clients involvement in a situation begins and ends with, he saw something. A clerk at a Walgreens or CVS, a store like that, made a comment, look, those kids just stole candy. He snapped a photograph, sent the photograph and an explanation of what he believed just happened of somebody he thought had just stole candy, and sent that to the school resource officer and the superintendent of the schools. That's the extent of my clients involvement. He saw something, he reported it to the school resource officer, he never asked for punishment, he never asked for anything to be done. He wanted somebody to know what had just happened that he witnessed."

When asked why the situation wasn't reported to the police, Freeman said, "As he was standing there at the store, the he mentioned to the clerk, why don't we call the police and the clerk said, it's either the store policy or they just don't call the police."

As far as a response to the defamation lawsuit:

To defame somebody, you have to, like, say something publicly about them. And my client has said nothing, leaked nothing publicly. I mean, my client has done nothing in the public sphere to, in any way do anything. And in fact, everything that's been done publicly, not by him, it's by the other side which is unfortunate. This should have been dealt with in other ways, but we're 19 days from an election. My client came within 60 votes, I think, four years ago, becoming the mayor of Beech Grove. You know, he's either winning or very close to winning, you know, 19 days from an election and here we go. So, it's a tragically unfortunate situation that it even gets to this point.
Aaron Freeman