Clyburn criticizes ‘political agendas’ in South Carolina school districts, questions removal of Black superintendents

Congressmember James E. Clyburn (SC-06, D) held a press conference on Wednesday concerning the state of South Carolina schools amid rising tensions in several school districts.

One of the school districts Clyburn mentioned was the Charleston County School District, in which he said he holds a vestige interest because he pays property taxes in Charleston County, where the representative asserted that the school district — along with several others — is riddled with political agendas.

“It’s all about the political agenda,” Clyburn said. “It’s Moms for Liberty down in Charleston. A 5-4 decision against the superintendent… This has got to stop. I am here to ask the people of goodwill in this state, in Berkeley, Charleston, Clarendon, Colleton, and Richland counties, to stop.”

Read more: CCSD to pay roughly $359K to release superintendent, effective immediately.

In CCSD, the board of trustees’ Moms for Liberty-endorsed majority placed Dr. Eric Gallien on administrative leave pending an investigation into a complaint regarding the superintendent creating a hostile work environment. The independent investigation found no evidence of Gallien curating a hostile work environment, but he and the board elected to part after nearly four months of tension.

The Berkeley County School District met a similar fate in 2022.

In November of 2022, BCSD swore in six Moms for Liberty candidates to the school board. Within two hours, the school board voted to fire the district’s first Black superintendent, Deon Jackson, who was voted the BCSD’s superintendent in 2021.

“There is something not right when every one of these school districts that are being called into question just happens to be headed by an African American,” Clyburn said. “Something is not right with that.”

The South Carolina NAACP echoed a similar sentiment in a press release sent out Wednesday morning.

“An alarming trend is surfacing that jeopardizes the very foundation of academic equity for all students,” the press release reads. “Over the past year and a half, African-American Superintendents in numerous counties across the state of South Carolina, including Richland County, Clarendon County, Colleton County, Charleston County, Dorchester County, Berkeley County, and Laurens County, among others, have faced unexpected and in many instances, questionable decisions regarding their tenures.”

The release continues: “While it’s a given that every leadership position will endure scrutiny and periodic challenges, the data reports that of superintendents who have left the profession, 88 percent indicate that politics played a major role in their decision. The nature of these specific instances gives rise to concerns about potential systemic biases in operation.”

Read more: SC lawmakers, parents call for safety at CCSD meetings; defend ‘democratic’ board actions.

Clyburn also called for school districts throughout the state to be fair to all students, imploring those in power to drop the “political agenda, which seems to be wanting to get rid of superintendents of color.”

For CCSD, the school board said it will begin its search for a new district superintendent in the new year.

The current acting superintendent of the school district is Anita W. Huggins.

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