More chaos erupts at R2 school board meeting

| Contributed

COLUMBIA – The angst and hostility that’s come to define Richland School District Two school board politics over the last year erupted again minutes before Tuesday night’s board meeting was scheduled to open.

An altercation which some witnesses said was sparked at least partially by the wife of the district’s Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis resulted in two members of the audience being ejected permanently from all R2 buildings and functions, and at least two complaints filed with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

Davis

The accounts of multiple witnesses say the melee occurred in the audience involving Pamela Davis, the superintendent’s wife, who is a teacher at Blythewood High School, and a 14-year-old student, a school board member, a parent, and another member of the audience.

It was also reported by witnesses that District Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis physically confronted a parent, at which time others, including Richland Two school board members and security personnel as well as Richland County Sheriff’s Deputies, intervened to restrain him.

“Oh gosh, what a disaster,” said the Richland Two student who said he was there to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting to bring the board’s attention to student issues such as cafeteria overcrowding. 

“It was crazy,” he recalled.  “I go to a school board meeting expecting to hear peoples’ concerns and opinions… not to get cussed out. Ugh!”

The teen was one of several people who had a front-row seat to the drama.

Libby Roof, Chief Communications Officer for Richland Two, told The Voice Wednesday morning that the board and staff were downstairs finishing a school board appreciation dinner when the disruption unfolded.

Two audience members involved, parent Gary Ginn and local blogger Gus Philpott, were subsequently removed from the meeting by Richland Two security after the two say they became targets of Pamela Davis’s anger. Both Ginn and Philpott say they were put on the Richland Two ‘trespassing list’ and will not be allowed to enter any R2 facilities or attend any R2 functions in the future. Both have filed complaints with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. Those complaints and the Richland County Sheriff’s incident report are posted below.

“They had no right to throw me out. They only did so because it’s the superintendent’s wife. She is the one who was loud,” Philpott said of Pamela Davis.

Philpott often attends meetings and sometimes speaks during public comment session. He regularly posts commentary critical of the actions and policies of the school district leadership. Philpott says it all started about 5:30 p.m., before the meeting began.

“I was talking to the student, a school board candidate and a parent who were seated together in the audience,” Philpott said. In what he described as an effort to be friendly to a woman seated by herself nearby, he introduced himself.

“I said, ‘Hello, my name is Gus Philpott,’ to which he said she replied loudly, ‘I know who you are! Get away from me! Do not talk to me!’” he recalled.

“So, I backed away and resumed my conversation with the guys I had been speaking with. She turned around, and told them to not talk to her, to get away from her, and I’m sitting about three chairs over.” 

Each of the four men told The Voice that they did not know the woman or that she was the wife of Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis.

Philpott said it was in the hallway, outside the meeting room where he was directed by one of the security guards, that he says he learned the woman was the wife of the superintendent.

The student told The Voice that he (the student) became the next target.

“Security told the lady to sit down,” the student said. “I said to my [Bible club] teacher about the flare up, ‘That was very childish.’”

He said the woman then turned and verbally assaulted him, calling him a vulgar name. 

It was then that Ginn, the father of a different high school student, said he defended the student, but that the woman continued to say things about the student.

Ginn said it was after that that the superintendent came at him with accusations. He said security, school board members and others moved in to stop the confrontation, restraining the superintendent.

Next, Ginn said the district security personnel put him on public trespass notice… and a Richland County deputy came over and said, ‘Gary, I’ve got to escort you out of the building.’”

School Board Member Monica Scott told The Voice that during the melee, Pamela Davis also approached her aggressively, poking a hand in her face and calling her “part of the problem.”

“I’m very concerned about my safety with an employee who happens to be the wife of the superintendent violating my space and preventing me from conducting school board business,” Scott said.

As for Baron Davis, Scott said, “He was out of control. We (school board members) were asking him not to go back over, not to approach the parent,” she said. “He went on over toward Mr. Ginn, and that’s when security moved in to restrain him (Davis).”

Scott, a frequent critic of Baron Davis said she believes that the school board should place him on suspension while an investigation takes place.

“I think if this had occurred with any other employee of Richland District Two, that person would be on administrative leave as we investigate,” Scott said.

“I am very disappointed at the outcome of what occurred tonight, and I do want to offer my apologies to the parents as well as to the students because we do have higher expectations from our leadership,” Scott told The Voice.

School Board Candidate Joe Trapp Jr, a Blythewood resident who observers said was sitting in the middle of the incident but did not participate, distanced himself from it in a social media post after the meeting.

“I don’t think it is fair to hold this against anyone involved,” said Trapp, who just days before, in announcing his candidacy for the school board, had bold words of criticism for school district leadership, citing the “dictatorial power” of Superintendent Baron Davis.

“I can’t provide a complete report on tonight because I sat in my chair and minded my own business,” Trapp posted on the Facebook group Friends of Richland School District Two following the meeting. “I did not see the superintendent arguing with one of the gentlemen at the back of the room because I did not turn around and look.”

According to the accounts of Trapp and others, he had been engaged in conversation with Philpott and Ginn at the time that the incident erupted.

After the incident, the meeting continued, beginning with an hour-long executive session – a closed-door meeting – that school board Vice Chair James Manning said later in the public part of the meeting, had been contentious and “went off the rails.”

The Voice left messages for both the district’s Chief Communications Officer Libby Roof and the Davises Tuesday night following the meeting. Roof called The Voice Wednesday morning and said she would be getting information about the incident out to the public as soon the district is provided witness comments and incident reports from the Sheriff’s office which she hoped would be later that day.

At press time on Wednesday, neither the superintendent not his wife had responded to emails left by The Voice.

Baron Davis has made statements about his views on such issues in the past.

In a November release responding to an unrelated issue involving alleged misconduct by a school district employee, Baron Davis said, “Please know that Richland Two does not tolerate any type of misconduct involving students and always fully investigates any reports of possible violations of laws, policies and procedures.”




Statement of Contact at R2i2. 1/25/2022 5:25PM by Gus Philpott

From: Gus Philpott
To: [email protected] <[email protected]>
Sent: Tue, Jan 25, 2022 8:01 pm
Subject: Philpott Statement 1/25/2022

My name is Frank R. (Gus) Philpott. 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 5:15PM 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, (name removed), 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.

Gus Philpott

Comments

  1. BRANDON J LACY says

    So they remove two parents for doing nothing wrong, but nothing happens to the Superintendent or his wife for 1. cursing out a kid, 2. Attempting to attack a parent?

    Great job reinforcing negative stereotypes of corruption and favoritism by the Sheriff’s department and the district.

    This disgusting circus of incompetence and corruption needs to be ended. The state needs to step in.

  2. Robert says

    What do you expect? The wife of the superintendent has privilege over any ordinary citizen who comes in to a school board meeting. Husband backs her up and you end up expelled.
    Way to go you liberal in grates. Way to go.

    • RSD2 has become a complete embarassment. There needs to be changes made. Davis needs to go, along with half of that circus that call themselves a school board. Great to see our overpriced tax dollars at work!

  3. Angela says

    It is concerning to me that people are using the excuse that the child was wearing a shirt proclaiming Jesus is great on it with a political name too and that he was quote “Getting him the attention he deserved.” If this is what Davis supporters feel, is that the way that Davis and his wife feel? I don’t feel very comfortable having a teacher in child’s school who shows prejudice and can not control her temper nor having a Superintendent who shows biases and can not show restraint. Great example to our children concerning violence.

  4. Before everyone starts to react on this, if you wasn’t there you really don’t know what happened. Read others accounts on the district website.

  5. R2Employee says

    Another shameful outburst at the circus we call board meetings. How could this not be nepotism? Wife or not, she is a RSD2 employee. Had I acted that way, I would be investigated and likely terminated for harassing a student and parents. The antagonistic-often belittling- manner that the district communicates with its employees coupled with the favoritism shown to particular employees makes me sick. This happened on the same day Libby Roof sent an email imploring employees to act professionally by reminding us the EMPLOYEE ONLY Intranet HR service was not social media, but then Dr. Davis and his wife go off and behave like this in a PUBLIC board meeting. Criticism for you, Dr. Davis, does not stem from your ethnicity-it stems for your lack of leadership and terrible management.

  6. Linda O says

    ….if you “weren’t” there.

  7. There is a slight error in the story. This line “Philpott admitted that he and the woman traded words before he was escorted out.” is incorrect. I did not speak to or look at Mrs. Davis on my way out. After picking up my materials from the chair, I looked at the two security officers and asked them if they were going to walk out with me. On the way to the front door, I asked their names. Both refused to identify themselves.

  8. As of 1/31/2022 11:30AM I have not received any Written Trespass Notice from the School District. Marq Claxton has not replied to my 1/27/22 8:19PM email, and Supt. Davis has not replied to my 1/29/22 7:07PM email. I consider that the Verbal Trespass Warning given to me on Jan. 25, 2022 has expired.

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