More chaos erupts at R2 school board meeting (2022)

More chaos erupts at R2 school board meeting (1)

COLUMBIA – The angst and hostility that’s come to define Richland School District Two school board politics over the last year erupted again minutes before Tuesday night’s board meeting was scheduled to open.

An altercation which some witnesses said was sparked at least partially by the wife of the district’s Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis resulted in two members of the audience being ejected permanently from all R2 buildings and functions, and at least two complaints filed with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

More chaos erupts at R2 school board meeting (2)

The accounts of multiple witnesses say the melee occurred inthe audience involving Pamela Davis, the superintendent’s wife, who is ateacher at Blythewood High School, and a 14-year-old student, a school boardmember, a parent, and another member of the audience.

It was also reported by witnesses that DistrictSuperintendent Dr. Baron Davis physically confronted a parent, at which timeothers, including Richland Two school board members and security personnel aswell as Richland County Sheriff’s Deputies, intervened to restrain him.

“Oh gosh, what a disaster,” said the Richland Two studentwho said he was there to speak during the public comment portion of the meetingto bring the board’s attention to student issues such as cafeteriaovercrowding.

“It was crazy,” he recalled.“I go to a school board meeting expecting to hear peoples’ concerns andopinions… not to get cussed out. Ugh!”

The teen was one of several people who had a front-row seat tothe drama.

Libby Roof, Chief Communications Officer for Richland Two,told The Voice Wednesday morning that the board and staff were downstairsfinishing a school board appreciation dinner when the disruption unfolded.

Two audience members involved, parent Gary Ginn and local blogger Gus Philpott, were subsequently removed from the meeting by Richland Two security after the two say they became targets of Pamela Davis’s anger. Both Ginn and Philpott say they were put on the Richland Two ‘trespassing list’ and will not be allowed to enter any R2 facilities or attend any R2 functions in the future. Both have filed complaints with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. Those complaints and the Richland County Sheriff’s incident report are posted below.

“They had no right to throw me out. They only did so becauseit’s the superintendent’s wife. She is the one who was loud,” Philpott said ofPamela Davis.

Philpott often attends meetings and sometimes speaks duringpublic comment session. He regularly posts commentary critical of the actionsand policies of the school district leadership. Philpott says it all startedabout 5:30 p.m., before the meeting began.

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“I was talking to the student, a school board candidate anda parent who were seated together in the audience,” Philpott said. In what hedescribed as an effort to be friendly to a woman seated by herself nearby, heintroduced himself.

“I said, ‘Hello, my name is Gus Philpott,’ to which he saidshe replied loudly, ‘I know who you are! Get away from me! Do not talk to me!’”he recalled.

“So, I backed away and resumed my conversation with the guysI had been speaking with. She turned around, and told them to not talk to her,to get away from her, and I’m sitting about three chairs over.”

Each of the four men told The Voice that they did not knowthe woman or that she was the wife of Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis.

Philpott said it was in the hallway, outside the meetingroom where he was directed by one of the security guards, that he says helearned the woman was the wife of the superintendent.

The student told The Voice that he (the student) became thenext target.

“Security told the lady to sit down,” the student said. “I said to my [Bible club] teacher about the flare up, ‘That was very childish.’”

He said the woman then turned and verbally assaulted him, calling him a vulgar name.

It was then that Ginn, the father of a different high schoolstudent, said he defended the student, but that the woman continued to saythings about the student.

Ginn said it was after that that the superintendent came athim with accusations. He said security, school board members and others movedin to stop the confrontation, restraining the superintendent.

Next, Ginn said the district security personnel put him on public trespass notice… and a Richland County deputy came over and said, ‘Gary, I’ve got to escort you out of the building.’”

School Board Member Monica Scott told The Voice that duringthe melee, Pamela Davis also approached her aggressively, poking a hand in herface and calling her “part of the problem.”

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“I’m very concerned about my safety with an employee whohappens to be the wife of the superintendent violating my space and preventingme from conducting school board business,” Scott said.

As for Baron Davis, Scott said, “He was out of control. We(school board members) were asking him not to go back over, not to approach theparent,” she said. “He went on over toward Mr. Ginn, and that’s when securitymoved in to restrain him (Davis).”

Scott, a frequent critic of Baron Davis said she believesthat the school board should place him on suspension while an investigationtakes place.

“I think if this had occurred with any other employee ofRichland District Two, that person would be on administrative leave as weinvestigate,” Scott said.

“I am very disappointed at the outcome of what occurredtonight, and I do want to offer my apologies to the parents as well as to thestudents because we do have higher expectations from our leadership,” Scotttold The Voice.

School Board Candidate Joe Trapp Jr, a Blythewood residentwho observers said was sitting in the middle of the incident but did notparticipate, distanced himself from it in a social media post after themeeting.

“I don’t think it is fair to hold this against anyoneinvolved,” said Trapp, who just days before, in announcing his candidacy forthe school board, had bold words of criticism for school district leadership,citing the “dictatorial power” of Superintendent Baron Davis.

“I can’t provide a complete report on tonight because I satin my chair and minded my own business,” Trapp posted on the Facebook groupFriends of Richland School District Two following the meeting. “I did not seethe superintendent arguing with one of the gentlemen at the back of the roombecause I did not turn around and look.”

According to the accounts of Trapp and others, he had beenengaged in conversation with Philpott and Ginn at the time that the incidenterupted.

After the incident, the meeting continued, beginning with anhour-long executive session – a closed-door meeting – that school board ViceChair James Manning said later in the public part of the meeting, had beencontentious and “went off the rails.”

The Voice left messages for both the district’s ChiefCommunications Officer Libby Roof and the Davises Tuesday night following themeeting. Roof called The Voice Wednesday morning and said she would be gettinginformation about the incident out to the public as soon the district isprovided witness comments and incident reports from the Sheriff’s office whichshe hoped would be later that day.

At press time on Wednesday, neither the superintendent nothis wife had responded to emails left by The Voice.

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Baron Davis has made statements about his views on suchissues in the past.

In a November release responding to an unrelated issue involving alleged misconduct by a school district employee, Baron Davis said, “Please know that Richland Two does not tolerate any type of misconduct involving students and always fully investigates any reports of possible violations of laws, policies and procedures.”

More chaos erupts at R2 school board meeting (3)
More chaos erupts at R2 school board meeting (4)

Statement of Contact at R2i2. 1/25/2022 5:25PM by Gus Philpott

From: Gus Philpott
To:[emailprotected]<[emailprotected]>
Sent: Tue, Jan 25, 2022 8:01 pm
Subject: Philpott Statement 1/25/2022

My name is Frank R. (Gus) Philpott. I am generally known by my nickname, Gus Philpott.

I have been attending board meetings regularly since January2019 and attended 1-2 before that, in March-April 2018, after the shootings inParkland, Fla. I address the board of trustees during many board meetingsduring the Public Participation segment.

On Tuesday,January 25, 2022, I arrived at R2i2 atapproximately 5:15PM and proceeded directly to the meeting room on the secondfloor, as is required by the District. I greeted two deputies in the courtyardbefore entering the building and several security officers while I was walkingto the meeting room.

After entering the meeting room, I entered into conversation with Joe Trapp and a 14-year-old Ridge View High School student, (name removed), who has been attending board meetings and speaking at them. Gary Ginn joined us.

I noticed a black woman seated in the front row, just infront of us, and I stepped over to say Hello. Walking in front of her chair, Isaid, “Hello, my name is Gus Philpott.” She instantly reacted with,“I KNOW WHO YOU ARE! GET AWAY FROM ME! DON’T TALK TO ME!”

I was shocked and immediately backed up toward the menbehind her. I did not know who she was. I believe I have never seen herbefore.

She continued speaking in a loud, aggressive voice, directednot only at me but at the other men, too. She told them not to talk to her. Shewas shouting, “DON’T TALK TO ME.’ No one was trying to talk toher.The black woman was emotionally out-of-control, as evidenced by herverbal attack on the other men after I backed away.

Two R2 security officers came over. One I recognized; theother I did not. I don’t know their names. The one nearer to me asked me tocalm down and pointed me toward a seat. In a normal tone of voice, I told himthat I WAS calm. I pointed to the woman and said, “SHE is the one whoshould calm down.”

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I still didn’t know who she was.

I asked for a deputy to join us, because I wanted theindependence of a law-enforcement officer there. A female deputy came to me.She asked if I would speak with her outside the meeting room. She was politeand I agreed. We stepped through the door into a hallway. I felt that thedeputy understood what had been going on. I still did not know who the womanwas.

Two R2 security officers came through the door, as if theywere worried about the female deputy who was talking to me. The female deputydisplayed no sign of concern; there was no reason for her to be concerned(about safety). I explained I didn’t know who the upset woman was or why shewas so upset. I explained that I had greeted her only as friendly gesture;white man politely greets black woman.

One of the R2 security officers said the woman who hadgotten upset was Mrs. Davis, meaning the wife of Supt. Davis. Suddenly it wasclear to me. She still had no cause to react as she did.

Then Marq Claxton showed up. I had not met him and asked whohe was. He identified himself, and I recognized his name from correspondencewith him. He informed me that he was putting me on Trespass. I asked, “Forwhat?” He explained the reason was what had happened in the meeting room.

Let’s see if I’ve got this right … Mrs. Davis reacts to mypolite introduction, gets loud, shouts, get out of her chair, andI’mtheone who gets the Trespass Notice? I told Claxton, “See you in court!”

In the hallway outside the meeting room, I explained to theR2 security officers and deputies (Dep. Ford had joined us) that the District’s“Trespass Notice” was a civil matter and that the RCSD deputies hadnothing to do until a law was broken. And that I had not broken any law.

I asked who was going to walk me out, before the R2 securityofficers even asked me to leave.

As we went down the escalator, I told them I would like toget their names before we left the lobby. They followed me to the door. Bothrefused to identify themselves.

If anyone should have been escorted from the building, itwas Mrs. Davis. I’m assuming that the R2 security officer correctly identifiedthe woman as Mrs. Davis.

Being put on Trespass and escorted from the building wasdamaging to my reputation and is cause for legal action against Mrs.Davis,Richland 2 security officers and Security Director Marq Claxton.

At all times the RCSD deputies were polite, respectful andcourteous. They were bystanders only.

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Gus Philpott

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