COLUMBIA — A South Carolina legislator says she “will not be intimidated or silenced” by a demand that she publicly apologize for questioning the superintendent of downtown Columbia educational facilities through an on-line discussion about the pandemic’s impact on education and learning.
Jamie Devine, chairman of the Richland 1 faculty board, accused Columbia Democratic Rep. Beth Bernstein of launching a “disrespectful and unneeded” assault from Superintendent Craig Witherspoon for the duration of a Dec. 15 webinar she was invited to join. No university board member was on the contact.
“Given that this regrettable situation was performed publicly, I anticipate a public apology,” he wrote in his Dec. 18 letter to her.
Bernstein refused, saying she did no this sort of point. Rather, it was Witherspoon who was rude and disrespectful to her for asking concerns she’s been seeking to get responses on for months with out results, she said.
Neither Devine nor Witherspoon responded by Thursday night to requests for remark.
Bernstein explained Witherspoon took a equally dismissive tone with her and GOP Rep. Kirkman Finlay through an Oct. 6 digital conference arranged so they could talk to him about the quite a few concerns they have been hearing from area moms and dads. Bernstein claimed Witherspoon just accused mom and dad of lying.
“I regret that you created this controversy,” she wrote back again to Devine on Wednesday. “These baseless assaults on me only further more exhibit why there is considerably discontent in our group about District One.”
Richland A single was among the the past school districts in the point out to convey any learners back again into the classroom this fall. A hybrid combine of in-man or woman and on line learning began the week of Halloween. The state’s ninth-biggest faculty district will return to digital-only understanding for two months just after the winter season split ends Jan. 4.
Devine, a Richland 1 school board member because 2008, took about in December as president of the point out College Boards Association.
His letter referred to a webinar sponsored by the Hunt Institute, a North Carolina-based group that connects educators with regional policymakers. Witherspoon and various Columbia-region legislators had been on the phone, but no university board member.
“Your procedure of Dr. Witherspoon for the duration of this meeting is unacceptable,” Devine wrote. “Absolutely, none of us would publicly chastise a member of your staff members, in personal or in public, and we would value the very same respect as elected officers.”
During the contact, Bernstein referred to a petition signed by 1,000 mother and father and sent to her office about their frustrations — the same petition she suggests the superintendent beforehand dismissed.
“I was astonished to be dealt with so rudely by him, and I can understand why mom and dad truly feel their voices are not becoming read,” she wrote in her response to Devine. She added that Witherspoon was also “rude and condescending to our legislative aide, who is also woman,” and who established up that October assembly.
She prompt Devine’s time would be better invested addressing parents’ concerns.
“This habits would not even warrant an apology. What about stating ‘sorry’ to the hundreds of mothers and fathers who have experienced their problems unheard? Which is where by the apology requirements to go,” Bernstein told The Publish and Courier on Thursday.
Bernstein said her constituents deserved solutions, and that it’s not standard for a point out legislator’s business office to be so bombarded about local university choices.
Finlay, a Columbia Republican, defended his colleague Thursday, expressing fears from Richland One particular dad and mom are filling his electronic mail inbox also.
“Type of a cross between anger and stress, feeling like their queries are heading unanswered and their voices are not currently being listened to and their concerns are remaining summarily dismissed,” he reported.
Bernstein, who quickly gained a fifth time period in November, identified as her remarks on the invitation-only webinar suitable, thinking about the matter and her preceding queries going unanswered.
She’s had a collegial relationship with Devine in the previous, she reported, and his letter signifies a initially.
“I basically have never ever, from anybody, been demanded to make a general public apology, and I’ll under no circumstances apologize for accomplishing items on behalf of my constituents,” she stated.
But the flareup is not the initially time a Richland County legislator has refused to publicly apologize for becoming vital.
Requested to apologize for a “profanity-laced tirade” directed at a legislative staffer over a missing item in a news release, state Sen. Dick Harpootlian agreed in December 2019 to maintain his language clean in the long term, but manufactured apparent he however believes the delegation’s staff members are a squander of Richland County taxpayers’ income.
Stephen Fastenau contributed to this report.
Abide by Adam Benson on Twitter @AdamNewshound12.