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No charges filed in Richland County School District Two verbal argument involving Dr. Davis and wife

FILE PHOTO - Dr. Baron Davis R2 superintendent
FILE PHOTO - Dr. Baron Davis R2 superintendent
Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 6:15 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 28, 2022 at 12:41 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Richland County Sheriff announced Thursday there will be no charges filed in an investigation involving a verbal argument, which occurred before Tuesday’s Richland School District Two board meeting.

The argument involved the superintendent, his wife, and three people attending the meeting, according to deputies.

With the announcement from the sheriff’s department about no charges being filed, several school board members are left upset and now want a special meeting arranged to address the incident directly.

According to the police report, a citizen attending the meeting tried to talk to the superintendent’s wife and she asked to be left alone. Then, that person was escorted out and told not to return.

Two other people attending the board meeting overheard the argument and became involved. The argument then escalated and the superintendent came to his wife’s defense.

After that, the two members of the public were asked to leave and placed on trespass notice.

School Board Member Monica Scott weighed in and says she thinks Dr. Davis overstepped his boundaries and security guards are hired to handle situations like this.

Dr. Davis says he was defending his wife because one of the people involved had sent threatening emails to him before. When asked by WIS for the emails, the district sent three examples considered to be threatening.

The first email stated, “Keep on and you will accomplish your goal. You will not like the consequence any more than 99% of our forefathers did.”

While another read, “Dr. Davis you are a tyrant and you will be dealt with maybe not today, but in the near future.”

And, the third example stated, “There will be dire consequences for your actions. There will be no get-backs, no threats, we will remove you from your superintendent job, and your elected positions.”

One of the men escorted out of the building was Gus Philpott, and he believes the statement released by the superintendent differs from the truth.

Below is the statement Philpott shared with RCSD:

“My name is Frank R. (Gus) Philpott. DOB 2/11/1939. I am retired. I am generally known by my nickname, Gus Philpott.

I have been attending board meetings regularly since January 2019 and attended 1-2 before that, in March-April 2018, after the shootings in Parkland, Fla. I address the board of trustees during many board meetings during the Public Participation segment.

On Tuesday, January 25, 2022, I arrived at R2i2 at approximately 5:15 p.m. and proceeded directly to the meeting room on the second floor, as is required by the district. I greeted two deputies in the courtyard before entering the building and several security officers while I was walking to the meeting room.

After entering the meeting room, I entered into conversation with Joe Trapp and a 14-year-old Ridge View High School student, who has been attending board meetings and speaking at them. Gary Ginn joined us.

I noticed a black woman seated in the front row, just in front of us, and I stepped over to say Hello. Walking in front of her chair, I said, “Hello, my name is Gus Philpott.” She instantly reacted with, “I KNOW WHO YOU ARE! GET AWAY FROM ME! DON’T TALK TO ME!”

I was shocked and immediately backed up toward the men behind her. I did not know who she was. I believe I have never seen her before.

She continued speaking in a loud, aggressive voice, directed not only at me but at the other men, too. She told them not to talk to her. She was shouting, “DON’T TALK TO ME.’ No one was trying to talk to her. The black woman was emotionally out-of-control, as evidenced by her verbal attack on the other men after I backed away.

Two R2 security officers came over. One I recognized; the other I did not. I don’t know their names. The one nearer to me asked me to calm down and pointed me toward a seat. In a normal tone of voice, I told him that I WAS calm. I pointed to the woman and said, “SHE is the one who should calm down.”

I still didn’t know who she was.

I asked for a deputy to join us because I wanted the independence of a law-enforcement officer there. A female deputy came to me. She asked if I would speak with her outside the meeting room. She was polite and I agreed. We stepped through the door into a hallway. I felt that the deputy understood what had been going on. I still did not know who the woman was.

Two R2 security officers came through the door, as if they were worried about the female deputy who was talking to me. The female deputy displayed no sign of concern; there was no reason for her to be concerned (about safety). I explained I didn’t know who the upset woman was or why she was so upset. I explained that I had greeted her only as friendly gesture; white man politely greets black woman.

One of the R2 security officers said the woman who had gotten upset was Mrs. Davis, meaning the wife of Supt. Davis. Suddenly it was clear to me. She still had no cause to react as she did.

Then Marq Claxton showed up. I had not met him and asked who he was. He identified himself, and I recognized his name from correspondence with him. He informed me that he was putting me on Trespass. I asked, “For what?” He explained the reason was what had happened in the meeting room.

Let’s see if I’ve got this right ... Mrs. Davis reacts to my polite introduction, gets loud, shouts, get out of her chair, and I’m the one who gets the Trespass Notice? I told Claxton, “See you in court!”

In the hallway outside the meeting room, I explained to the R2 security officers and deputies (Dep. Ford had joined us) that the District’s “Trespass Notice” was a civil matter and that the RCSD deputies had nothing to do until a law was broken. And that I had not broken any law.

I asked who was going to walk me out, before the R2 security officers even asked me to leave.

As we went down the escalator, I told them I would like to get their names before we left the lobby. They followed me to the door. Both refused to identify themselves.

If anyone should have been escorted from the building, it was Mrs. Davis. I’m assuming that the R2 security officer correctly identified the woman as Mrs. Davis.

Being put on Trespass and escorted from the building was damaging to my reputation and is cause for legal action against Mrs. Davis, Richland 2 security officers and Security Director Marq Claxton.

At all times the RCSD deputies were polite, respectful and courteous. They were bystanders only.

And, below is the full statement from the Richland County School District Two:

Richland School District Two disputes any statement that Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis was the aggressor or instigator in an incident that occurred prior to the school board meeting on January 25, 2022.

The two adults involved, who were escorted from the room and notified that they were being put on trespass notice, have a history of outbursts, disruptive and adversarial behavior at and following school board meetings. One individual also has a documented history of sending emails of a threatening nature to Dr. Davis.

Prior to the beginning of the meeting on Tuesday, one of the individuals approached Mrs. Davis. She firmly declined to engage in conversation. He refused to respect her boundary and continued trying to engage her. Security personnel intervened and directed the individual to a seat. A short time later, the individual continued to try to engage Mrs. Davis. At this time the second individual joined the conversation. Security personnel intervened. The individual who first engaged Mrs. Davis refused several commands by security to take a seat and insisted on continuing to speak with Mrs. Davis. This resulted in the first individual being escorted from the room and informed he would be placed on trespass notice.

Once Dr. Davis became aware that his wife had been harassed, and with the past inappropriate behavior of these individuals in mind, he became concerned for the safety of Mrs. Davis and others in the room. As he checked on her, he observed that she was visibly shaken. Dr. Davis then asked the second individual if he had questions to direct them to him. The individual took a step forward and responded loudly. Security personnel were nearby because of the earlier interaction and they created a barrier between Dr. Davis and the second individual. At no time did Dr. Davis make any physical or verbal threats toward the individual. Following this, the second individual was escorted from the room and informed he would be put on trespass notice.

Unfortunately, this incident has become a distraction and overshadows the accomplishments of Richland Two teachers and students. Dr. Davis and district leaders recognize and appreciate how diligently teachers, administrators and school staff are working during these unprecedented times and ask that for the community’s continued support of the teaching and learning at Richland Two schools.

Richland Two parents and community members have a right and are encouraged to be active partners, to ask questions and to express their concerns. The district facilitates numerous opportunities for input via surveys, committees, advisory groups, the district website, ombudsman, social media platforms and public participation at school board meetings. However, these conversations must be conducted respectfully and through the appropriate channels. Further, employees nor their families should be subject to emails, comments and encounters of a threatening nature when individuals disagree with a district policy or direction.

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