SALISBURY – The connections of a Salisbury martial arts school are seeking support from the Wicomico County Board of Education to reenter the school system following incidents of sex abuse at the facility.
Last week, Justin Garner with Mitchell’s Martial Arts came before the Wicomico County Board of Education in the public comment portion of its meeting to renew a longstanding partnership between the academy and the school system.
Garner said any activities associated with the martial arts school were banned from the school system nearly three years ago, when two martial arts instructors were arrested and charged for illicit activities involving minors while employed at Mitchell’s.
“I simply ask for your forgiveness and ask for possibly your partnership back …,” Garner told the board. “Mitchell’s Martial Arts and Fitness, Inc. was simply another victim of these individuals. Both have been convicted and justice is being served. Unfortunately, in the process the reputation that Mitchell’s has built over the last 20-plus years has been deeply hurt.”
Garner told the board the owners had terminated the two employees, banned them from the premises and upgraded the facility’s security systems, locks and employee clock-in systems, among other things.
“While all these measures were not necessary to the situation, the owners felt the need to go above and beyond to make the improvements,” he said.
Garner noted that management has also changed at the martial arts facility. He said he and his wife would soon take ownership of the studio as the current owners transition into retirement.
Garner noted the facility had given thousands of dollars to students and schools in the form of scholarships and fundraisers. He said Mitchell’s Martial Arts was eager to renew its partnership with the school system.
“Unfortunately, when the situation occurred, not only was the community hurt, we were hurt, but we were removed from all the schools,” he said. “We were told ‘you cannot enter the schools, you cannot advertise in the schools, you cannot participate in school events.’ We were literally shunned from basically the entire community.”
Members of the board did not respond to Garner’s comments last week. But Garner said he and his wife were looking to participate in school fundraisers and mentoring programs, sponsor classrooms, donate school supplies and offer martial arts scholarships to underprivileged students.
“Ultimately, we want to reestablish our relationship with you guys,” he said.