Sparks, not fireworks at BOE meeting

Published 1:59 pm Thursday, February 1, 2024

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Local residents were packed in like sardines at Tuesday night’s local Board of Education (BOE) meeting out of either curiosity or intrigue as to what members of a local political action committee (PAC) would say about curriculum used in Beaufort County Schools.The large crowd and presence of three Allied Universal school resource officers had some wondering if they should expect fireworks at the meeting. 

There were sparks, but not fireworks at the meeting. Those sparks were generated by Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson and Campaign Coordinator for the Beaufort County Conservative Republican PAC, Adam O’Neal. Both spoke during the public comment period at the meeting along with nine other people. Each person was given a strict, three minute maximum time limit to speak. 

Richardson and O’Neal believe the school board is approving curriculums that are “indoctrinating” students with stereotypical liberal ideology, and that the public should be aware of it. 

“My criticisms are not about teachers. They are about this board,” Richardson said. “The situation with curriculum including LGBTQ, new math, CRT and the woke movement is of concern to me. It is alarming that this school board has not communicated to the public the teaching staff a stronger and better defined message as to what the limits of curriculum and discipline are.” 

O’Neal lambasted a sociology class offered at Beaufort County Early College for teaching that in some societies there are more than two genders. He claimed elementary school students are being sent home with “gay and lesbian books.” He did not elaborate on which schools and which books. “We’ve got gay and lesbian books in the schools! Do you care,” O’Neal exclaimed. 

BOE Chairman, T.W. Allen repeatedly asked an excited and emotional O’Neal to address the school board rather than those attending the meeting, but O’Neal persisted. 

“You don’t have any respect for these parents. These parents don’t want this gender crap pushed on their kids. We’re talking about high school kids. You all don’t care…,” O’Neal said.  

The Beaufort County Conservative Republican PAC has drawn criticism from those who identify as Christian, conservative Republicans. 

Curt Tucker is a father of two Beaufort County Schools students and husband to a Beaufort County Schools educator who identifies as a Christian, conservative Republican. He shared his disapproval of the PAC’s treatment of the school board and school system during the public comment period. 

“I’ve attended school board meetings over the past few years and witnessed a growing hostility from a segment of my own party toward our school board and teachers. This group criticizes and condemns the efforts of BCS without knowing what’s really happening in classrooms,” Tucker said. 

“The acknowledgement of different social groups is not indoctrination – it’s education and inclusion. This allows students to feel seen. Every student deserves to be a part of our school…Exposure to different cultures and people is part of the educational process for our entire community – not just people who look and pray like me,” Tucker said. 

President of Beaufort County Community College, Dr. David Loope spoke at the school board meeting to explain the mission of the college, in part, is to teach students how to think critically and independently. “It is not our mission to teach students what to think. They must make that decision for themselves.” 

In his speech, he indirectly addressed a claim O’Neal makes about a quiz students at Beaufort County Early college were given. O’Neal claims the quiz asked students whether the following statement is either true or false – “In every society, there are only two distinct genders.” 

“In fact, the picture of the question, which has been making the rounds, asking whether there are two genders and grading the answer true – is incorrect and does not as best we can tell come from our college,” Loope said. “We have interviewed all of our full-time and part-time instructors in psychology, sociology, biology and health and none has given such a quiz nor would they do so.” 

Tuesday night’s meeting followed one on Jan. 16 where board members passed a resolution 6-3 in response to a mailer sent out by the Beaufort County Conservative Republican PAC. 

The mailer claimed; there are 15 genders being taught at Beaufort County Early College, there are gay and lesbian books in elementary school libraries, there are schools with low performance scores, the national anthem not being played before school sporting events, Critical Race Theory being taught and there being a “disrespect for parent’s role in education by Woke Administrators.”

The resolution indirectly addressed the mailer and called for board members’ support of school administrators, teachers and staff.