November 22, 2022

Mercedes Schneider: SC: Moms for Liberty School Board Fires Superintendent, Opens Itself to Litigation

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A school board in South Carolina has been commandeered by Moms for Liberty candidates, and they were in such a hurry to remake the district to their own liking. Mercedes Schneider points out that they may have made some extra trouble for themselves. Reposted with permission. 

The newly-elected Berkeley County (SC) school board (BCSB) was sworn in on November 15, 2022.

Follwing swearing in, that same board fired both in-house counsel and superintendent in short order.

The majority of the new board was endorsed by the conservative, right-wing group, Moms for Liberty (M4L), known for its efforts to restructure school curricula into its conservative image (see this Hechinger article for more details). To achieve its ends, M4L, which is able to proliferate due to hazy-yet-apparently-ample conservative funding, seeks to have its members permeate school boards.

M4L has achieved that end– at least for now– in Berkeley County, SC.

BCSB’s published agenda for November 15, 2022, begins with approval of the minutes from the October, 25, 2022, meeting and then shifts to going into executive session (out of public view) for “Discussion of Evaluation, Employment, Appointment, Assignment, Demotion, Discipline, or Release of an Employee(s), as Needed.” This language appears to be general stock for BCSB meetings, as is approval of minutes from the prior meeting and beginning in executive session before holding the public meeting.

What is not par-for-the-course is the board emerging from executive session to fire both board counsel Tiffany Richardson and superintendent Deon Jackson without warning, only to immediately turn around and vote to appoint replacements without first following any semblance of a democratic process, including publicizing any candidate search, let alone allowing the two individuals fired to know that their potential dismissals were being discussed behind close doors that very night.

In doing so, the M4L-led board made quite the sensation. The firings hit the news, and on its Facebook page, M4L bragged about its backed board members “clean house the first night on the job.”

This blindsided sweep is not “liberty”; it certainly is not democracy, and its legality is also highly suspect, to say the least.

Indeed, in their morally-twisted arrogance, the M4L board members could not have put their ignorance on greater display.

Part of the M4L idiocy-on-display stems from fired superintendent, Deon Jackson, having the BCSB unanimously rate him as “proficient” only weeks earlier, in its October 25, 2022, meeting. The notable difference between that meeting and the next was the change in the composition of the BCSB to a majority M4L BCSB, which points to a political motive. Moreover, apparently neither Jackson nor the public was given any specifics for the shocking about-face regarding Jackson. On the contrary, new board chair Mac McQuillan says he “expects to share our (the board’s) rationale in the future.”

So, let’s get this straight:

Jackson receives a unanimous board vote of “proficient” in October 2022 and is unceremoniously fired only weeks later by a board just sworn that very day. No explanation provided to Jackson or to the public, but new board chair says we’ll explain “in the future.”

Well, no surprise McQuillan also adds that his “in the future” comment is also tempered by “the prospect of litigation.”

I think it is safe to say litigation will ensue since Jackson responded to ABCNews’ request for comment by stating that he “can’t speak at this time.”

Here is yet another problem for the M4L-BCSB firing idiocy:

The planning and recruiting of replacements did not happen in the public eye.

If the BCSB emerged from executive session ready to appoint replacements for Jackson and counsel Tiffany Richardson, then the board must have formed its plan out of the public eye, whch is a no-no. According to SC state law, “The members of a public body may not commit the public body to a course of action by a polling of members in executive session.” Furthermore, according to BCSB policy, the board may “act only when a quorum is present at a legal meeting of the board.” The question becomes one of whether a quorum of board members met (in person or virtually), out of the public eye (in executive session or elsewhere) to so neatly have a specific counsel and superintendent nomination handy and ready to go following the Jackson and Richardson firings.

And the replacements– Anthony Dixon as superintendent and Brandon Gaskins as counsel– seemed prepped and ready to assume their new roles as if already offered to jobs prior to the Jackson/Richardson firings.

Moreover, it seems that the non-M4L board member minority was kept out of the loop.

On November 15, 2022, right out of the gate, M4L’s BCSB members demonstrated that they are willing to run roughshod over the liberties of others as they forcefully pursue their curriculum-scouring agenda.

Let the wrongful termination litigation begin.

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