What I saw seemed so out of character with the Lebanon principal I know and who, with outspoken opinions on character and integrity, has set himself up as a moral authority at the school. It just didn’t fit. I grieved about my journalistic response would be for long hours. I did not spend time, however, looking over the salacious content of the electronic dialogue forwarded to me. I thought instead of the gravity and impact this would have on his family, student body, and the community at large.
With the exception of stories about tragedy and fatal outcome, the recent piece on Lebanon High School Principal Kevin Lowery is the most difficult report I’ve written and published. You see, I am a great admirer of Mr. Lowery and his accomplishments during his tenure as principal. I have never seen a school leader so involved and engaged with all aspects of academic life. I think he must try to attend almost every sporting, competitive event or performance. He is without doubt an exceptional school administrator.
However on Wednesday, I was messaged by a media partner about some allegations being made against Mr. Lowery on social media. She was very reticent and wanted to set up a private meeting so we could discuss the matter at length. I was in the middle of the work week on my regular job and couldn’t find an window of opportunity. But, I asked for details and she sent me screenshots and emailed me the account of the conversation that has now been published on the news site. I was shocked. What I saw seemed so out of character with the Lebanon principal I know and who, with outspoken opinions on character and integrity, has set himself up as a moral authority at the school. It just didn’t fit. I grieved about my journalistic response would be for long hours. I did not spend time, however, looking over the salacious content of the electronic dialogue forwarded to me. I thought instead of the gravity and impact this would have on his family, student body, and the community at large.
On Friday I was contacted directly by the former student making the allegations after she was referred to me. I had questions and of course, concerns. I had concerns about what the revelations would mean to Lowery’s family. I also had concerns because of the tendency by many to victim blame when sexual misconduct allegations come to light.
But I listened carefully to her response and the possibility she raised that there might be other individuals who have been exposed to similar behavior by the principal and other 18 year-old female students who mighyt find themselves in this situation in the future.
I contacted others I knew with media backgrounds for counsel. One was particularly forthright in encouraging me to publish the story on similar grounds of acting to protect others.
At this point, I finally examined the presented conversation between Lowery and the past student in detail and also reviewed the screenshots. I came to the conclusion that the dialogue was not artificially manufactured and what the past student was telling me was to be believed. What stuck with me is the overall appearance that Lowery from, the ping-pong incident and throughout the Facebook communications, seems to be grooming the individual by encouraging her to respond to his questions in a decidedly sexual manner.
“I don’t understand how jacking off makes things worse for you? Please explain that. Is it how you do it or the things you fantasize about while doing it?” was one of his most implicit requests. He also badgered her about her sex life and porn habits, even using a traumatic experience she shared to manipulate her.
I also believed her when she said she went to the school board and no action was taken.
I knew after considerable thought I needed to publish the story. I immediately emailed the district’s communications director. I also Facebook messaged Mr. Lowery. I have not heard back from the district, but Lowery responded with a threat to introduce his attorney into the matter.
Since the story was published, the responses have been predictable to my mind. I certainly understand those who wish to defend him, but I am struggling with those who excuse the incident, but not deny it, as being between two consenting adults. I am also not a fan of the fully expected victim blaming going on. It takes a great deal of courage to come forward knowing you will be subjected to abuse again.
To me, the published dialogue crosses the line into sexual misconduct, abuse of the mentor relationship and is an example of moral turpitude that should be grounds for dismissal.
Personally, I hope that Mr. Lowery will voluntarily step down and seek the spiritual accountability and pastoral care he needs. I pray for him, his family and the school. This is a sad day for Lebanon.