Letters to the Editor

in Letters to Editor/Voices by

School board setting poor example for kids

I am writing as someone who was bullied growing up, as a parent of a second-grade student in Beaufort County schools who has been bullied (though thankfully not in school), and as a concerned constituent of Beaufort County. 

I have spoken about this issue before at a school board meeting and it brings me great sadness that this matter continues to come up. As many of you know, October was anti-bullying awareness month. 

I don’t know if all of this is coincidental or completely random that the topic of bullying continues to be brought up with regarding the school board members, but regardless, as adults I feel we need a refresher course on what constitutes bullying. 

The following is copied verbatim from the district website on what bullying is and what the anti-bullying policy is for Beaufort County schools:

“What is bullying?

“Bullying is unwanted aggressive behavior that invokes a real or perceived threat or action. It is a behavior that is repeated or can be repeated by one individual or many individuals. Long lasting effects of bullying may cause life-long problems for both the victim and the bully.

“What are the types of bullying and some examples?

• Verbal bullying includes name calling, verbal threats, spreading rumors or excluding a student from activities or conversations.

• Physical bullying involves one or more students aggressively hitting or attacking another student.  

• Social/cyberbullying is electronic aggression using the Internet, social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), e-mails, instant messaging and text messaging.

“When and where is bullying likely to happen?

“Bullying is likely to occur at school, on the way to or from school, on the playground, in the cafeteria, in the classroom and sometimes on the Internet.

“What is Beaufort County School District’s policy on bullying?

“Any and all incidences of bullying should be reported immediately.

“How are bullying incidents handled in Beaufort County School District?

“• School administration will contact all parties associated with the bullying incident to make sure that all parties are aware of the policy against bullying and the consequences for continuing to bully.

“• Incidents will be documented and parents in all cases will be contacted. 

“• Consequences can be as simple as a warning and as serious as a recommendation for expulsion.

“Visit SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING to report an incident of bullying, harassment, or intimidation. You may choose to include your name or remain completely anonymous.”

It is a cause of great concern for me that this is a matter we, as the adults, strive to teach our children and we expect them to abide by this. But how unbelievably hypocritical can we be when we don’t practice what we preach? 

Children learn through example. Our actions speak louder than words. To put it more simply, how can I expect my son to say “please” and “thank you” if I don’t say “please” or “thank you?” I can’t. He learns by observing me, just like every single student in this district. 

It is incredibly naive and shortsighted to think that our children, the children the board members were elected to represent, do not see this abhorrent behavior. Like I said, my son is 7 and he knows that something is amiss with the grownups. 

Whether you perceive the exercise of the First Amendment by calling for someone’s resignation a threat, or saying you wish someone would just fall off a cliff, or that those who are the perceived “dissenters” will all go to hell, these words are being made public in newsprint and social media. 

I would like to point out that two of the above-mentioned incidents are clear examples of verbal and cyber bullying. The third is a constitutionally protected right. Members of Congress call for the impeachment of our president every day and they aren’t subjected to the same ridicule by their cohorts that one board member has been.

Exercising the First Amendment to freedom of speech and freedom of the press is an essential cornerstone of our government and it is what makes this country great. Responding with wishes of harm, on the other hand, could be construed as a violation of the First Amendment. 

So I have to ask: How do the schools handle verbal and cyber bullying? How can we seriously expect our children to not participate when this is the example? 

Enough finger pointing. Enough name calling. Enough with the threats. We have earned our ages so why don’t we all start acting like we are the adults and stop?

This is counterproductive and only takes away from the important issues. It’s about how to run a school district. It’s about providing all students stellar academic opportunities and athletics and extracurricular activities so that they can grow and become productive and contributing members of society. 

Jennifer Wallace

Thanks to all who helped with Pat Conroy festival

The Pat Conroy Literary Center held our second annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival in partnership with the University of South Carolina Beaufort Center for the Arts. 

The festival was a vibrant celebration of the transformative power of education, abounding with literary inspiration, educational workshops, film screenings, poetry readings, panel discussions by a pantheon of writers and teachers, and beautifully staged performances of the musical “Conrack,” an engaging discussion of the life of Beaufort’s iconic Robert Smalls, and guided walking tours through the current Beaufort Middle School — the former Beaufort High School where Pat graduated in 1963 and returned to teach four years later. 

The Conroy Festival was an immersive, heartfelt weekend of unforgettable experiences for our presenters and participants alike because of the dedication and generosity of our many sponsors, partners and volunteers who make the festival not only possible and successful but also an absolute joy to present. 

Being a volunteer is a gift of time that comes from the heart, and we thank each one of the dozens of volunteers from the Pat Conroy Literary Center, the USCB Center for the Arts and the Beaufort County School District who gave their time and talents in support of the Pat Conroy Literary Festival.

We also wish to extend a special thank you to the many Beaufort students who volunteered this year. 

The Conroy Center strives to educate and inspire a community of readers and writers, and at this year’s Conroy Festival it was our community of student volunteers who truly inspired us, emblematic of Pat Conroy’s lifelong commitment to learning and teaching and reflective of his great love for the South Carolina Lowcountry and its diverse voices. We are grateful to the Interact students of Beaufort High School who assisted with the book signing at the Conroy Center: Ellie Stone, Amanda Davenport, Alma Orozco-Rico, Hailey Brancho and Michael Cence. And we also offer a big thank you to the Beaufort Middle School Gryphon ambassadors, who not only helped with the guided walking tours of their school, but who also designed and created posters for the tour: Mason Aimar, Davis Martin, Jack Van Gundy, James Fabian and JaNaya Jackson.

In an essay appearing in “A Lowcountry Heart,” Pat wrote, “I consider the two years in Beaufort when I taught high school as perhaps the happiest time of my life.” Indeed, our time spent working with and getting to know our Beaufort High School and Middle School volunteers was among the happiest memories of this year’s Pat Conroy Literary Festival. Many thanks to those wonderful students.

With great love and great thanks,
Jonathan Haupt and Maura Connelly
Pat Conroy Literary Center