S. Carolina teacher group drops protest plan, citing threats
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Teacher advocacy group SC for Ed says teachers met privately on Monday after the group dropped plans for public protests in Columbia amid threats of violence.
The group had scheduled an “Enough is Enough” protest to take place at the Statehouse, South Carolina Department of Education and governor’s mansion, saying it wanted to protest the mistreatment of teachers by Gov. Henry McMaster, the state superintendent of education and others.
The teacher group said its concerns ran deeper than McMaster’s executive order, which attempted to let parents choose if their children would wear masks in schools or not. But some teachers said the Republican governor’s action inflamed the situation.
“While governor McMaster’s mask mandate wasn’t the reason for it, it really was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back,” SC for Ed founder Lisa Ellis told WLTX-TV.
But the association with masks brought threats, with SC for Ed announcing the event’s cancellation Saturday, saying members had “received harassing and threatening messages from groups with extreme views about masking, who have falsely represented our event as being primarily mask-related.”
“It just really got to a point where we felt very threatened and we did not feel safe at all to hold a protest in Columbia,” Ellis said.
Ellis told WIS-TV on Monday that the group reported the threats to police, but were told investigators were already aware of the group making the threats.
She said teachers gathered privately on Monday wearing their trademark red T-shirts. She said they wrote letters to McMaster to demand better work environments.
“We can collaborate share ideas and build each other up,” Ellis said.
SC for Ed says there’s still time to make an impact on lawmakers who will finalize a state budget this summer.
“So now we’ve been silenced by a very small minority of people -- some of whom do not even have children in school,” said Richland County teacher Kim Woods, who had planned to attend.
Sherry East, president of the South Carolina Education Association, told WYFF-TV that parental demands on masks have ruined efforts to maintain consistency for the last few days of the school year. The association is separate from SC for Ed.
“The teacher’s in the middle of two parents that (are saying) well, my kid’s not wearing a mask, my kid is wearing a mask so I don’t want them together in your 12 by 14 classroom,” East said. “So what you had was a seating chart, the nurses knew where people were sitting because the contract tracing, now it’s all blown up, in a matter of days.”