Joel Lourie shared this exchange with me from over the weekend — two messages from Mia McLeod and one from him…
Rep. McLeod sent this to Sen. John Scott at 12:24 p.m. on Friday:
As you know, we are still dealing with an increasingly volatile situation at Spring Valley High School (SVHS).
From what I’m seeing on social media, in conjunction with the calls and texts I’ve received, school administrators obviously allowed some students to stage a “walk-out” in protest to Officer Fields’ firing.
Students on both sides of the issue are extremely passionate about their very different perspectives and of course, opinions and perspectives are not limited to students, parents and community members of SVHS.
As social media continues to reveal, this latest “protest” is likely to escalate already growing tensions that have been caused by Monday’s incident.
If students at SVHS and other Richland Two schools decide to do likewise, this could become a real issue for Richland Two and us.
In fact, as SVHS and Ridge View prepare to play tonight at Spring Valley, we need to understand that tensions are high and could easily play out at school events like this.
I’ve copied Richland Two so that they can advise us about District Two’s position on this and why school administrators are approving and/or allowing any types of protests. Shouldn’t protests of any kind also be considered disruptive, since these students are missing and causing others to miss, valuable instruction? I’m concerned that this sets a very dangerous precedent.
What are we collectively planning to do about it?
Then, later on Friday, she sent this to Scott and other members of the Richland County Legislative Delegation:
From: Mia McLeod [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2015 2:03 PM
To: John L. Scott, Jr.
Cc: Jimmy Bales; Rep. Bales; Nathan Ballentine; Beth Bernstein; Rep. Beth Bernstein; Christopher R. “Chris” Hart; House 3M Committee; Leon Howard; Rep. Kirkman Finlay; Rep. MaryGail Douglas; MaryGail Douglas; Joseph A “Joe” McEachern; Joseph H “Joe” Neal; Rep. Rutherford; Rep. Smith; Sen Thomas McElveen, III; Senate Education Committee; Sen. Jackson; Joel Lourie; Thomas McElveen; JAMES BROWN; Kim Janha; Amelia B. McKie; James Manning; Cheryl Caution Parker;firstname.lastname@example.org; Susan Brill; Monica Elkins-Johnson; Calvin Chip Jackson; Debbie Hamm
Subject: Re: Spring Valley Protest
It has also come to my attention via calls and social media, that apparently, there is video footage of today’s student protest and that an SVHS Administrator is seen on that video, addressing the group of protestors and assuring them that they are not in trouble for protesting (or “disturbing schools” during the school day) and that their voices have been heard.
Can someone from Richland Two please speak to this?
I can’t imagine that the school or the District would knowingly endorse or condone this type of activity, since it clearly presents a double-standard, among other things, that is totally opposite of the school’s/district’s position concerning Monday’s incident.
Some could easily argue that the violently ejected student was also exercising her rights to protest by “sitting-in” and refusing to leave when asked by school officials. Both forms of protests should fall within the purview of “disturbing schools” when it comes to the impact on their (and other students’) classroom instruction. So why are there two extremely different outcomes?
Am I the only one who is concerned?
Sent from my iPhone
You may wonder at this point what she thought the legislative delegation, of all entities, should be doing about a walkout at a school. In his response sent on Saturday morning, Sen. Lourie seems to have wondered the same thing:
Subject: RE: Spring Valley ProtestSenator Scott, Representative McLeod, Members of the Delegation and School Board,
This has been a very difficult week for our Richland Two Community. Certainly the unfortunate and unnecessary actions of the School Resource Officer warrant further review of the appropriate use of officers in the classroom. I am sure there will be other policies and procedures to review as well. We hope and pray that the young lady involved will heal both emotionally and physically. As a graduate of Richland Two, the parent of 2 graduates, and one of the Senators representing the area, I have been very tuned in to the events at Spring Valley and would like to offer a few comments.
Regarding Friday’s demonstration, I spoke with James Manning, Chairman of the School Board, and Dr. Debbie Hamm, the Superintendent. It is my understanding that the administration found out yesterday morning about a planned “walk-out” in support of Officer Fields. In summary, a diverse group of approximately 100 students conducted a brief 5-10 minute peaceful “walk-out” and promptly returned to their school activities. A good account of this can be found in this morning’s State Newspaper by clicking here: http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article41935716.html. The videos included are also worth watching.
Personally, I see no problem with allowing students to peacefully express their opinions. I think peaceful demonstrations are critical to our democracy, and what separates us as Americans from other countries. The alternative of letting that tension boil inside these young students would be more destructive. My opinion may or may not be shared with others. However, I see no role that the legislative delegation should play in setting school board policy. The school board is elected by the public, and therefore accountable to them as well.
I am proud of how our Sheriff and School Board and District Administration leaders have handled this week with great sensitivity. The Sheriff moved quickly to return to Columbia from a conference and made a personnel decision within 48 hours of the incident. The Administration and the Board have very transparent, strong and impressive in their actions to respond to the incident. We as elected officials should rally together to look for positive ways to move forward. Our state and community have been tested many times this year, and thus far, we have become better and stronger as a result.