Accountability arrived in Berkeley County, South Carolina — or was it a “political witch hunt”? It depends on whether one talks to the former board chair who got pushed out in last week’s elections, or to the new members elected by angry parents in the district.
In two hours, the new board fired the district’s superintendent, their attorney, and banned critical-race theory in the schools. This, NBC News dutifully reports, caused “uproar among some community members”:
On Tuesday evening, the Berkeley County School District in South Carolina swore in the board members who were elected last week, six of whom were endorsed by the conservative activist group Moms for Liberty.
Within two hours, the school board had voted to fire the district’s first Black superintendent, terminate the district’s lawyer, ban critical race theory and set up a committee to decide whether certain books and materials should be banned from schools.
In addition, the board voted to replace the chair with Mac McQuillin, a local attorney and one of the board members backed by Moms for Liberty.
By the way, they fired the “first Black superintendent,” and then turned around and hired the second Black superintendent to replace him — which NBC finally notes seven paragraphs later. Nevertheless, David Barrow, the former board chair, called the firings a “travesty.” Dissenting board member Yvonne Bradley claimed that the people who elected the new board were “being fooled” by it, and then walked out of the meeting.
Were voters fooled, however? Or did they vote for this precise outcome? After all, as Moms for Liberty pointed out afterward, this is precisely the agenda on which these board members ran:
Moms for Liberty celebrated the six candidates’ wins in Berkeley County as an example of flipping a school board in favor of people who “value parental rights.” Four of the candidates, including McQuillin, were incumbents, while the two others were new to the board; they promised more curriculum transparency and fiscal responsibility and to put a stop to the “woke agenda.”
So who’s being fooled? People in the community decided that they didn’t like the direction the school board and education system had taken. They organized on that basis to redirect policy significantly in another direction, and it turns out that their ideas were pretty popular with local voters. And honestly, the speed in which they made those changes makes democracy look pretty darned effective, especially at the local level.
On the question of who’s being fooled, though, perhaps Bradley was engaging in a case of projection. The dissenting arguments to these moves claimed that CRT wasn’t being taught in schools but that it was absolutely necessary to teach it, and that excluding books was wrong and that the district already had a process for excluding books. It sounded like the double-speak that likely cost the previous board its control of the schools, and other boards across the country as well. One has to wonder whether the NBC reporter and editor wrote this passage tongue in cheek:
Two teachers said the district did not teach critical race theory, a pastor argued that critical race theory could help teach students about local history, an NAACP representative said addressing structural racism should be the board’s priority, and a district librarian said an additional committee was redundant because there were already policies dictating how to buy books for libraries. The librarian also noted that there is already a process for parents to challenge specific titles they don’t want their children to read.
How dare you stop the CRT teaching that isn’t taking place! And how dare the board look at standards for books rather than the librarians! There is also a process for parents who want to change those policies so that they’re not having to personally review what librarians are doing. That process is called a “school board election.” And it looks pretty fabulously successful, at least in Berkeley County, South Carolina.
Of course, there will be more school board elections in Berkeley County. If parents there don’t like the direction this board takes, they can hold these members accountable at that time. For now, though, it appears that the new board has a very clear idea of why they got elected — and are serious about carrying out that mandate. Isn’t that what democracy is for?