Pushback continues after Chapin High teacher accused of teaching CRT

Posted 7/5/23

Residents continue to speak out over a Chapin teacher’s curriculum.

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Pushback continues after Chapin High teacher accused of teaching CRT


Residents continue to speak out over a Chapin teacher’s curriculum.

On June 26, almost half a dozen residents pushed back against the continued employment of Chapin High School English literature teacher Mary Wood, who is facing allegations that she taught critical race theory.

Wood’s lesson featuring the Ta-Nehisi Coates memoir “Between the World and Me” elicited concerns from some members of the public, including some who are calling for her removal. Speakers criticized this book as well as two videos the teacher showed.

The school district has since shut down the lesson in question.

“We now know that there have been teachings in a school here in this district of systemic racism. There have been assignments given on systemic racism.” Stephanie Berquist, a local resident, said during the meeting. “These topics are very uncomfortable and inappropriate.”

“This is not only inappropriate and divisive. This is illegal according to our South Carolina proviso.” she added.

According to reporting done by The State newspaper’s Bristow Marchant, Wood planned for the book to be used during the course’s argument essay unit, but a couple students complained about the material, saying it made them ashamed to be caucasian and violated a state budget proviso passed in 2021.

That proviso stipulates that no money can be used by any school district or school to teach several concepts, including that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex,” “an individual, by virtue of his race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,” “an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his race or sex,” “an individual's moral standing or worth is necessarily determined by his race or sex” and “an individual, by virtue of his race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.”

State Rep. RJ May (R-Lexington), the chair of the hardline conservative legislative group the S.C. Freedom Caucus, was among the speakers at the meeting, as was new Lexington County GOP Chair Pamela Godwin and state Rep. Joe White (R-Newberry).

The caucus has been active in pursuing instances it sees as showing the teaching of critical race theory, having recently settled a suit with Lexington County School District 1 over allegations that its curricula included such ideas.

May posited to the Chronicle that the proviso doesn't remove the discussion of history and race, but removes Marxist ideas that undermine America’s founding documents.

“Anybody who comes to this discussion, saying that conservatives are attempting to erase history is flat out wrong,” he said. “In fact, I think we should teach history more than we do. I think we've lost a pursuit of knowledge of the past. We've lost the burning desire to find out more about the Constitution and the ideals that this nation was founded upon.”

According to The State, Wood has been defending her teachings, saying that it followed the standards for advanced placement classes, Wood also said that the proviso was vague.

“Theoretically, a Black parent could complain that the history of the Confederacy makes their child uncomfortable,” Wood is quoted by The State. “Would that eliminate instruction of the Civil War? A gay student could argue that only reading about heteronormative relationships in literature makes them feel uncomfortable. Would that inspire the removal of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ from the classroom? The proviso is a slippery slope.”

May told the Chronicle that this quote was Wood doing her best to deflect attention that she has brought upon herself and the District.

The District refused to comment on the incident but sent the Chronicle a statement:

“In School District Five, we ask our teachers to provide students with a variety of viewpoints to ensure fair representation of an issue so that through research and critical analysis, the student can determine their own position on the issue and defend their position with evidence. Under these circumstances, this policy will protect teachers from censorship or restraint.

“There will be times when students or parents disagree with issues discussed in class. The best way to resolve these matters is communication between the family and teacher. However, any parent may contact the school principal if needed to discuss the details of a lesson.

“We want our students to be critical thinkers with the ability to develop their own understanding of the world around them. “

During the meeting, Board Member Elizabeth Barnhardt made a motion to convene a policy review committee to ensure compliance with the law before the board’s next meeting on July 17, but the motion failed by a 4-3 vote.

According to May, the Caucus wants to see the legislation’s guidelines followed.

He told the Chronicle that the parents are taking the lead in the district and that the Caucus’ current role is lending support and to ensure that its students receive an education free from political indoctrination and focus on reading, writing and arithmetic.

“No one wants to send their child to a public school where the first and last thing they're being taught is that they somehow cannot succeed because of the color of their skin,” May said. “Or that they are responsible for problems just because of the color of their skin, that they somehow have inherent bias just because of the immutable characteristics in which they have. That is not an American ideal. It is not a South Carolinian ideal.”

chapin high school, sc critical race theory, lexington county crt, RJ May, pamela godwin


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