CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The chairman of the Charleston County School Board issued a response Tuesday to a letter Gov. Henry McMaster wrote after saying he received calls and letters from parents concerned about an assignment.
McMaster’s letter called on the school board to “restore and prioritize parental involvement in the classroom by prohibiting instructional materials on gender identity from being distributed or utilized without parents’ knowledge and consent,” McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes said.
Charleston County School District spokesman Andy Pruitt said the district learned last Wednesday there were concerns about content shared with students in a class at Camp Road Middle School. That led to a prompt investigation that revealed an assignment was left for students to complete with a substitute teacher during a physical education class without parents’ prior knowledge.
“The assignment involved students reading a Scholastic magazine article that addressed the topic of trans people and then answering three multiple choice and two short answer questions,” Pruitt said. “The assignment was supplemental and was not given a grade.”
Mack released this statement:
'I am in receipt of Governor McMaster’s letter, sharing his concerns, and those of parents, about an assignment distributed by a teacher at Camp Road Middle School
Based on a review of events, District officials listened intently to parents’ concerns and acted swiftly to address them last week. We regret this occurred without prior notification to parents and surely value their right to determine if/when they prefer materials not be shared with their children/young adults.
I have requested that [district] leaders ensure all staff receive information annually regarding opt-out protocols and that such protocols be followed moving forward.'
In the letter, McMaster said while he heard from parents, he had not received a copy of any questions or other materials provided to the children and said he was told the district “has thus far refused to provide this documentation to parents upon request.”
“Parents know what is best for their children, and that includes whether, when, or how to address topics like those raised in the article,” McMaster wrote. “If parents decide to introduce their children to the ideas discussed in this article, then it is in their sole discretion to do so, at a time (or age) and in the way they deem appropriate. It certainly should not be done by a public-school teacher without parents’ knowledge.”
District investigated assignment, sent letter to parents.
District staff determined the assignment did not align with state and district policies, Pruitt said.
The school’s principal, Jaclyn Rowehl sent the following statement to parents whose children were in those classes:
Dear Camp Road Families,
Following concerns shared by parents, we have determined that content was shared with students in a PE/health class involving topics that were not in accordance with the Comprehensive Health Act from the South Carolina State Department of Education.
At Camp Road, moving forward, instructional materials utilized within the classroom by teachers will adhere to the Comprehensive Health Act requirements.
We want to be sure you know that if you choose for your child not to participate in the growth and development portion of the Health class, Parent Opt Out forms can be completed. Parents can expect that opt-out forms are sent out before the material is covered in the course. For your review, curriculum materials can be found at CCSD Comprehensive Health Plan.
We appreciate the feedback provided and the ongoing dialogue with families that has allowed us to respond to concerns and make adjustments to our practice.
“District staff regrets that this matter occurred, and leaders are working to ensure all staff is reminded of parents’ opportunity to opt their children out prior to sensitive materials being shared with students,” Pruitt said. “School administrators at Camp Road Middle continue to be available to meet with parents to address additional questions and concerns about this matter.”