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Florence school board member calls for SLED, U.S. Justice Department to audit all district

Florence school board member calls for SLED, U.S. Justice Department to audit all district, (Tonya Brown/WPDE)

FLORENCE, S.C. (WPDE) — Florence School District One (FSD1) Board of Trustees Alexis Pipkins, Sr. has called for the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the U.S. Justice Department to audit all FSD1 emails to learn if there's been any racial slurs used before after two emails have surfaced calling Pipkins and other African American board members "darkies."

FSD1 sent out a news release this week saying former school board member Glenn Odom used racially insensitive terminology in two emails sent to a district employee back in August.

Odom resigned last week citing a move to another area in Florence.

Pipkins said he harbors no ill feelings for Odom, but has issues with how the FSD1 chairman and vice chairwoman handled the situation.

"When there's racism, hatred and bigotry, I extend love, peace , mercy and joy. My issue here as it relates to him is separate. As to what has occurred wtihin the finds of the leadership of FSD1, " said Pipkins.

He added FSD1 Superintendent Dr. Randy Bridges forwarded the emails to School Board Chairman Barry Townsend eight minutes after Bridges received them on August 29 from a district employee.

Pipkins said Townsend sent the emails to Vice Chairman Trish Caulder back on August 30.

He said Caulder and Townsend met with Odom and the district's attorney and shouldn't have done that without all nine school board members present.

"The chair and vice-chair had two private meetings with the former board member, and at the second private meeting they engaged Attorney Andrea White to be present with them- the other board members were not aware of any issue or any private meetings."

Pipkins said he didn't receive the emails until September 20.

He feels like he should have been the first to know because his name was specifically mentioned in the email as a "darkie."

Pipkins added the other two African American school board members were also referred to as "darkies", but they didn't want to necessarily deal with this matter in the public.

"The public's business should be vetted in the public'a view. The Communication was communicated via the public's Internet server via by a board member, " said Pipkins.

Pipkins has made the following recommendations as to how he thinks the district should handle this situation from this point.

Recommendations:

  1. The FSD1 Board Leadership did not offer any formal action for the board to take any action to address the racism, thus the recommendation is that the board develop a Resolution to publicly denounce the actions of the former board member.
  2. The FSD1 Board Leadership take action requesting the South Carolina School Board Association (SCSBA) to take action and issue a Resolution to publicly denounce the actions of the former board member and any board member who utilizes racism and defaming words concerning board members and anyone regardless of race, creed, religion.
  3. The Board and Superintendent will take action to develop Race, Equity, and Diversity Training sessions in collaboration with an organization which specializes in addressing these issues and developing Restorative Justice and Organizational Reflective Practice with organizations.
  4. The board needs training immediately. It is on a course of collision with this leadership. Abuse of authority and leadership, and bullying and coercive, subtle strategies have no place in leadership of public institution or governing bodies.
  5. A request will be made to SLED and Justice Department to ask both entities to launch a full investigation or audit of FSD1 e-mail system to determine if other acts are being communicated by others individuals in our organization. The present leadership manipulates the: when, how, and who when they “differently” or discriminately disseminate information to some of “ALL BOARD MEMBERS”
  6. A submission will be submitted to the Justice Department to inform them of this horrible incident.
  7. Over the past 25 years, a veteran school board member who has been a member of the SCSBA, achieved Level 6- which is the highest level of training for a School Board Member in SC. The terminology used has influenced public education policies and platforms with a lens cloudy with the ugliness of bigotry, racism, discrimination, and prejudice. It is hurtful and harmful
  8. CALL FOR NEW LEADERSHIP FOR FLORENCE SCHOOL DISTRICT 1 from the Board Officers who covertly addressed this incidence in secrecy to the Superintendent’s Office which handled this manner differently.

Pipkins said he will call for the recommendations at every school board meeting during the public participation segment until the district adopts them.

Our repeated calls to Odom haven't been returned.

African American school board member John Galloway said he was out of town and isn't commenting on the matter.

African American school board member E.J. McIver hasn't returned our phone calls.

We've requested a copy of the emails from FSD1 through the Freedom of Information Act(FOIA).

The district has up to 30 days to send us the emails.

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