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Richland Two school board members react to tensions that led to verbal altercation, threats during executive session meeting

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Published: May. 12, 2022 at 9:01 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - COLUMBIA, S.C. – (WIS) A series of ongoing tensions among the Richland School District Two board led up to a verbal altercation at a board meeting that resulted in the arrest of a board member.

During executive session of a special called board meeting on April 28, Board Chair Dr. Teresa Holmes and member Lashonda McFadden got into a dispute.

McFadden threatened Holmes multiple times, which led to her arrest. She bonded out of jail on Wednesday after turning herself in.

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A recording of the verbal altercation show Teresa Holmes and McFadden get into an argument. McFadden says, “I will f--- you up.”

On Thursday, Holmes said that this was an unfortunate situation, but not a surprising one. According to Holmes, McFadden’s behavior has “progressively been demonstrated in the past.”

McFadden said that she has been mistreated by certain board members, and her frustration boiled over during that meeting, which was audio recorded.

In a statement to WIS, McFadden said: “My apologies to the community because my behavior is a bad representation of this district as an elected official and as an adult there is really no excuse for my behavior. This is not a reflection of my character but I found the limit of my breaking point.”

Holmes said her focus is on doing the work of the students, teachers, staff and faculty of Richland Two, but felt it was important to address this issue.

“It is unfortunate that Miss McFadden seems to have a problem because of the title that I hold which is chair, I often have to reprimand things that she does,” she said. “So I think she finds that as being bullying, but I am doing my job as the chair of Richland School District 2.  And I will continue to do so. I have never at any time been intimidating or mean to anybody. But we have a business to conduct. And that is the business of children. And that is what I’m going to keep on doing.”

Holmes also claims that she did not laugh at anybody during the meeting on April 28.

“I had a facial expression, and the facial expression was basically I was not understanding why [McFadden] was bringing up something that we had spent until Tuesday night at 10 o’clock talking about,” she said.

McFadden said much of her anger stemmed from being called “little girl.”

When asked about that, Holmes said that she has never called McFadden a name. Holmes also said that “it’s nothing personal,” and that she does not intend to hurt McFadden when she works to keep order at board meetings.

“Little girl was in response to her telling me to shut the f--- up,” she said. “Okay? And I mean I could have said something else, but I’m not going to do that. So to me that’s just an excuse. That’s an excuse for behavior that you wanted to exhibit. I don’t understand this mentality of making somebody else responsible for your behavior.”

Board Vice Chair James Manning acknowledged that board members have called McFadden names, but argued that McFadden has done the same, and worse.

When asked about the incident, board member Lindsay Agostini said that Holmes could have handled it better.

Agostini said that she has been displeased with what she called a “lack of leadership and professionalism” from Holmes, toward her and other board members.

“When Mrs. McFadden was upset and after listening to the audio, Mrs. McFadden was talking softly and saying what was upsetting to her, a good leader would have approached her and tried to deescalate the situation,” she said. “But again, all of it, the conversation was inappropriate but I do feel like our board chair encouraged more of the conversation versus trying to discourage and discontinue the conversation with Miss McFadden.”

Holmes said the incident “has come behind a long list of playing games.”

“As I often say and I’ve said many times in the board meeting, ‘Do the work, not the antics,’” she said.

Both Agostini and board member Dr. Monica Scott said that the fact that this meeting was audio recorded only heightens tensions that already existed among the board members.

Agostini said she believes recording the audio of that meeting violates board policy.

“It really creates – if there was a lack of trust factor before, the fact that executive session was taped now gives me great concern whenever going into executive session,” she said.

Agostini said the audio recording “exponentially” exacerbates that distrust.

Manning said Wednesday that in order for board relations to improve, he believes that McFadden should resign.

Holmes agreed, but said that McFadden should let her “own conscience be her guide.”

McFadden told WIS on Wednesday that she does not intend to resign, and plans to still attend board meetings.

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