Shawnee Heights superintendent issues apology after DUI speech backlash

Local News

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The superintendent of Shawnee Heights USD 450 has issued an apology after a speech to students, which he calls “insensitive.”

Parents in the district are having mixed reactions to a speech Superintendent Dr. Martin Stessman gave students Wednesday.

Stessman was arrested for a DUI in April of 2019. Part of his punishment was to give an alcohol awareness speech to students. A video was taken of the speech which shows Stessman talking about his family background dealing with addiction.

The part that has parents talking is when Stessman discusses girls drinking in college. He talks about sexual assault towards women and warns about drinking.

“Ladies, you can’t drink with men, don’t try,” said Stessman.

After KSNT News asked Stessman for his reaction, he issued this response:

Dear Shawnee Heights: On Wednesday, March 4, I delivered a heartfelt presentation to 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students regarding alcohol addiction. During my remarks, I addressed a number of statistics related to alcohol, including its potential as a factor in sexual assault of college students. During this portion of the speech; however, I directed my remarks only to our female students. I should have also addressed the responsibility males have in social situations involving alcohol. As an educator for more than 30 years, I have worked with families and students who have been emotionally, physically, and sexually abused or assaulted. I understand my comments were insensitive and hurtful to some of our students. I also understand how these comments coming from me as a person in a position of authority were inappropriate. Never in any situation of this nature should any blame whatsoever be placed on the victim. I am truly sorry my comments did not deliver their intended message. My remarks Wednesday came from the heart of a concerned father of five daughters and were intended to inform our young women to be aware of the physiological differences between men and women in processing alcohol and to urge them to always be aware of this in order to protect themselves in social settings where alcohol is involved. I regret that I delivered this message poorly and missed a good opportunity to address the male students and their roles in these situations. I have spoken with members of the SHHS newspaper staff to clarify my remarks to students. I want to apologize to you for creating additional controversy in our Shawnee Heights community. This is an amazing district and a community that I am proud to serve for the past 15 years; I’m truly thankful to be your Superintendent, and I promise to continue working hard to rebuild the trust within our district. Sincerely, Dr. Martin Stessman

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