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Special election for open Lexington Richland District 5 school board Tuesday

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 8:45 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 11, 2021 at 9:07 PM EDT
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IRMO, S.C. (WIS) - After controversy surrounded the resignation of the Lexington Richland School District Five’s superintendent, a board member stepped down leaving an open seat on the district’s governing body.

In June, Dr. Christina Melton gave a tearful goodbye to the district she lead since 2017.

Longtime board member Ed White left his elected position in objection to Melton’s resignation. White claimed Melton was forced to resign and board members were forced to sign a “secret settlement agreement.”

Board Chair Jan Hammond disputed the claims that an agreement was signed and that a vote was held behind closed doors.

“I witnessed the hostile and abusive work environment these three created for her that would make it impossible for any Superintendent to succeed,” White said in a statement after he resigned.

Over the past year, District Five has found itself in the middle of debates on mandating masks and returning to in-person learning.

The three candidates currently vying for a seat on the board all have strong opinions on COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

Businessman Jeff Herring and nurse practitioner Haley Griggs believe deciding whether a child should wear a mask in school should be up to that child’s parents.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of parents that have special needs students. [Parents] that have students with respiratory diseases. And to force them to wear a mask, I can’t justify something like that,” Herring said.

“I do believe in parental autonomy and think it should be left up to the parent,” Griggs said. “I respect all opinions and I would never judge someone based on their opinion not to wear a mask versus to wear one. I do encourage families who feel comfortable with their child having a mask to make sure it’s medical grade.”

Non-profit development director Tifani Moore disagrees with her opponents. Moore said she believes in doing what is needed to be done to keep kids in school.

“If that means wearing a mask when our numbers are high, then that is something we have to put in place,” Moore said.

Beyond the debate around masks, each candidate mentioned a few other areas they wanted to focus on if elected.

Moore who has been endorsed by the local chapter of the SC Education Association is calling for more transparency.

“As parents, as stakeholders as employees, we need to know what’s happening in those closed-door meetings,” she said.

Haley Griggs who is being endorsed by two sitting board members said she wants to bring her experience as a nurse practitioner to the board.

“Seeing early treatment for patients, that type of thing, gives me first-hand knowledge of how to handle COVID and treat it,” she said. Griggs’ website also mentions that she wants to keep critical race theory out of the classroom.

State Superintendent Molly Spearman has said that no public schools in South Carolina teach or plan to teach critical race theory.

According to an article posted by the American Bar Association, Critical Race Theory was introduced in the legal world in the 1970s and then grew in the following decades.

“CRT transcends a Black/white racial binary and recognizes that racism has impacted the experiences of various people of color, including Latinx, Native Americans, and Asian Americans,” writes the ABA author Janel George. “CRT challenges white privilege and exposes deficit-informed research that ignores, and often omits, the scholarship of people of color.”

And Herring believes he can use his business experience to help curb what he sees as wasteful spending.

“We’ve got a lot of building, our older schools that need a lot of TLC,” he said.

The election will be held from 7 AM until 7 PM on October 12. Voters are encouraged to check their polling location before heading to vote.

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