By Beverly Gadson-Birch
The first dog I bought my son was a Doberman. He grew into a beautiful red dog with red eyes. He had a big appetite and didn’t take “no stuff” from outsiders. Y’all, keep on reading and follow my drift!
At its meeting last week, Charleston County School Board voted on a “Decorum Policy”. The policy was the result of National Action Network (NAN) and community stakeholders protesting years of discriminatory practices in the way minority children are educated. The protest ended the meeting abruptly with school board members, with the exceptions of Rev. Chris Collins and Kevin Hollingshead, fleeing the meeting.
The Board has tried on numerous occasions to silence and limit public engagement by limiting the time for public speakers—stakeholders and community groups. Over time, public speaker’s time went from three to two, to one minute. Then they tried 30 seconds. Public comments went from the top of the agenda to the bottom, if comments were not in reference to an agenda item. The Board has tried every tactic in the book to dissuade parents and stakeholders from appearing board in attempts to silence them. However, according to the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution, the public has a right to “protest” and “peaceful” assembly.
First Amendment- Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people “peaceably” to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Fourteenth Amendment- The Due Process Clause prohibits state and local governments from depriving persons of life, liberty, or property without a fair procedure. The Supreme Court has ruled this clause makes most of the Bill of Rights as applicable to the states as it is to the federal government, as well as to recognize substantive and procedural requirements that state laws must satisfy. The Equal Protection Clause requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people, including all non-citizens, within its jurisdiction. This clause has been the basis for many decisions rejecting irrational or unnecessary discrimination against people belonging to various groups.
The landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education, 1954, regarding racial segregation in schools was litigated under the 14th Amendment. The Amendment also “limits the actions of all state and local officials, including those acting on behalf of such an official.
There is absolutely no need for the Board to put in place a “Decorum Policy”; and, the Board’s rush to approve the policy on the first reading violates the public’s right to “free speech and peaceable assembly”. If anyone is out of order, it’s the Board. If only the Board would act as expediently in passing policies and fixing educational disparities as they did for the Decorum Policy, this whole matter would be “mute.” The Board has a history of including certain stakeholders that come before them while blackballing others. Stakeholders consist of parents whose children have been harmed irreparably by a dual educational system put in place over the past 50 years. And, stakeholders are simply saying, “no more.” You will not harm black and brown children anymore. The time for accountability is not with the public it is with the Board.
It is the Board that has wasted millions of taxpayers’ dollars on studies they refuse to accept and take corrective actions. Both the Clemson and College of Charleston studies point to “racism” as the key factor in Charleston County Schools that have contributed to a dual educational system. The disparities are many but most notably are the assignment of students, principals and teachers, and the high rate of suspensions and expulsions. These disparities point to a carefully orchestrated plan—by design—that is responsible for the great gap in student performance and achievements.
The “Decorum Policy” is the latest attempt to disrespect minority parents, students, teachers, principals and other stakeholders who seek equity in education. The Board has a history of divisive tactics designed to pit minority groups against each other. Most recently the Superintendent tossed a “bone” at one group, hoping that they would satisfy their appetite and they would simply “go away.” Well, in real life, all dogs are not the same. There are big dogs and then there are little dogs. “Big dogs” require more. It’s hard to bait a big dog. You mess with a big dog if you want to and he will “bite the hand that feeds him.” You can’t fool a big dog. When you toss a “big dog a bone,” it better have some meat on it.
It would be in the Board’s best interest to feed the public “bones with meat” on them. The Board has fed the public “empty” bones, promises after promises time and time again. They have baited parents long enough with “empty bones.” Now, it’s time to deliver or be bitten by the big dogs. Big does don’t take no stuff.