Upcoming Events
  • May 27th - Memorial Day
  • May 24th - Early Release
  • May 20th - 23rd: Senior Exams
  • May 6th-17th: AP Testing
The student news site of Wando High School

Tribal Tribune

The student news site of Wando High School

Tribal Tribune

The student news site of Wando High School

Tribal Tribune

Disarray Downtown – The School Board

School board controversies divide district, community
Charlotte Baxter

The Charleston County School District school board has sparked numerous controversies including secret board meetings over the superintendent, withholding public knowledge, and comments regarding race and sexuality as well as tumultuous public board meetings.

On Sept. 25, five school board members voted to place Superintendent Eric Gallien on paid administrative leave. This meeting, however, was held in secret, breaking Freedom of Information Act law, according to media attorney Jay Bender.

“Starting back, at least as early as the search to hire the superintendent who has now been suspended, it appears that there is a majority of the board that meets in secret to make decisions from matters such as the agenda, and when to call a meeting, and what action will be taken at that meeting,” Bender said.

Board members can hold meetings as long as all information is released and permitted for public knowledge, Bender said. Reasons for the meeting must be specifically provided, and the only information given was that a complaint was filed against Gallien for creating a hostile work environment.

On. Oct. 27, the Board of Trustees reached a mutual agreement with Gallien after an investigation. The investigation cleared Gallien of any wrongdoing, but he chose to leave the job, according to a district press release. Anita Huggins has been appointed as acting superintendent.

“So what the school board majority has done, in addition to violating the law, is diminish the credibility that it and the school board as a whole and probably the school district, have in the community,” Bender said.

The five members who voted in favor for the suspension of Gallien are Carlotte Bailey, Edward Kelley, Keith Grybowski, Leah Whatley and Pamela McKinney, all of whom are backed by the right-wing Moms for Liberty organization.

The Charleston County chapter of declined to comment on recent board events.

Just two days later, 15 high school principals, including Principal Chas Coker, came together to write and sign a letter expressing their disapproval with the recent events. The letter states, “Both in terms of substance and conduct the meeting did not meet basic standards of good governance that we expect from ourselves, our leaders, and our elected officials.”

“We would like to see the board work as a unit and handle differences of opinions, and handle them… more delicately than… they are handling them,” Coker said. “Since they’re an example for students… showing how you can work through differences and come to a common good.”

Coker said he signed the letter to show unity with the principals in the district.

On Oct. 1, in an interview with NBC News 2, State Representative Joe Bustos, the Republican chairman of the Charleston legislative delegation, wrote to Gov. Henry McMaster stating the recent controversies around the school board should be investigated bythe state.

A day later, Rep. Wendell Gilliard called upon Attorney General Alan Wilson for an investigation involving the school board’s actions.

“The Moms for Liberty are using their position on the school board to bully and intimidate the superintendent, and their attacks are clearly motivated by race. This is unacceptable, and we cannot allow it to continue,” Gilliard said in an interview with News 4.

On Oct. 5, Gallien filed suit against the district and board of trustees for breaching his contract, breaking FOIA law with the secret meeting, and ineffectively allowing him to do his job. In late October, six former members of the CCSD Health Advisory Committee who were removed by the same board members filed a lawsuit against the district.

In the school board meeting held Oct. 23, Lucy Beckham transgender senior Penn Doucher spoke out against their recent removal from the committee. Along with five other members, they were removed before their term was over.

They were later told that state law requires one member to be a student body president, and for that reason, they were removed. However, their replacement is not a student body president and other application spots were left open.

“Since the board has made it quite clear that they do not owe us transparency or accountability, I am forced to assume [that I] was removed for my queerness. I am the trans kid you are so afraid of,” Doucher said.

Gallien turned down an interview with Tribal Tribune due to the recent lawsuit. Board members also did not respond to multiple requests for interviews with Tribal Tribune. However the school board did release a statement regarding the recent lawsuit filed by Gallien: “The lawsuit is being thoroughly reviewed, so we don’t have a comment at this time. However, we do want our community to know school and district staff will not be distracted from our commitment to providing life-changing educational opportunities for every student in our classrooms.”

On Oct. 9, secret voice recordings from board member Carlotte Bailey were released to the public. Bailey had met with Elvin Speights on Oct. 3, and because of South Carolina’s one-party consent, Speight did not need Bailey’s permission to record.

Bailey made statements about the gay and Black communities, stating that “there’s no such thing as gay children,” and that “those children are confused about who they are and what they are.” She also made comments on how she will not be used by the Black communities to influence her vote.

Bailey is the representative of district 5 North Charleston, which is majority Black. At the Oct. 23 board meeting, the board declined to remove Bailey from leadership positions.

Another board member, Kelley, was embroiled in a similar controversy in April when he was accused of telling attendees at a Moms for Liberty rally that he would show up to a teacher’s house with a gun if the teacher spoke to his child about transgender issues. Kelley denied the statement, but the board censured him in response to the alleged comments.


Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

Comments are encouraged on this website, but there exist instances in which comments may be deleted. Comments may not contain spam, be promotional in nature, or include offensive or libelous language. Comments that attack another individual directly will be deleted. Tribal Tribune reserves the right to edit or delete any comments submitted to the blog without notice. This comment policy is subject to change at any time.
All Tribal Tribune Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *