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Press Release

posted Mar 7, 2017, 10:10 AM by Lisa Ingram   [ updated Mar 27, 2017, 12:22 PM by Jay Lindler ]

LEXINGTON SCHOOL DISTRICT FOUR

               GASTON-SWANSEA                                                       Linda G. Lavender, Ph.D., Superintendent

 

607 East Fifth Street

 Swansea, South Carolina 29160

(803) 568-1000

FAX (803) 568-1020

 

 

News Release - For Immediate Release

March 7, 2017

 

Swansea, SC – This is a follow-up statement to events of Thursday, February 23, 2017, where students at Swansea High School were working on a group project that involved the history of slavery in the United States.  After the administration had an opportunity to interview all students involved and the teacher, it has been determined that throughout the process of this project multiple conferences and conversations took place between the group and the teacher. The project was one of many from Swansea High School that was to be entered in a national academic competition.  The theme for the contest is “Taking a Stand in History”.   
 
The project in question was focusing on groups that ‘took a stand’ in connection with the Civil War.  The original inspiration for the project came from the students’ desire to counteract the negative stereotypes oftentimes associated with southern states.  Their hope was to bring awareness to the positive contributions that southerners made to change the culture of the south during that time period.  The students’ three areas of focus were the military, education, and slavery.  The group’s research included historical figures, institutions, and ideas that were involved in the fight against slavery, such as abolitionists, the Underground Railroad, and the Emancipation Proclamation. 

 

On the afternoon of Thursday, February 23, 2017, as students were working on early stages of constructing the exhibit that was to accompany their research project, they went in search of shackles to represent “breaking free” from slavery.  They were unable to secure shackles but found a rope, instead.  The students asked the teacher for, and received, permission to use the rope as a border for the exhibit.  They went back to the construction process and, after some time had passed, they requested feedback from the teacher.  The teacher examined the exhibit and realized that the visual images could be negatively interpreted by others.  His feedback included commendations of the overall creative vision of the exhibit, but also addressed concern about the use of the rope.  He advised the students to go back to the original idea of using the rope as a border.  At the end of the period, this exhibit was placed in a storage closet along with other projects that were still under construction.  Students left for the day.

 

On Friday, February 24, 2017, around midday but before sixth period, the teacher noticed a visibly upset student and realized that this was related to their interpretation of the exhibit mentioned above.  The teacher immediately removed the project and notified administration.  The teacher planned to address the students more directly during their sixth period class that same day, unaware that another student had photographed the unfinished exhibit and publicized the photograph externally without an opportunity for discussion regarding the students’ overall intent and research on abolitionists, the Underground Railroad, and the Emancipation Proclamation. 

 
The teacher had a thorough understanding of the vision and direction that the students intended.  During these conferences, students were often encouraged by the teacher to be creative and intriguing, as they looked at example exhibits from previous competitions.  The students had several ideas for titles, but chose to ‘think outside the box’ with THE SOUTH SHALL RISE AGAIN as opposed to THE CIVIL WAR.  The group members and the teacher agreed that this title would capture the audience’s attention while also being applicable to their intention of communicating a positive message of the South. The project was in the development stage and was not being displayed or presented when it was publicized. Our investigation found that at no time was there a defined intent by any stakeholder for the project to have any purpose other than to shed light on positive contributions made from individuals who were taking a stand at that time in history. 

 

Since the events of Friday, February 24th, administration and staff of Swansea High School have taken extreme care to ensure that these unfortunate events become a learning experience for both students and staff.  The response of students has been inspiring, as they have shown great levels of resiliency and tolerance. The staff at SHS has also shown compassionate professionalism as they have sought to provide leadership and support for all students. 
 
Lexington 4 is committed to furthering the educational interests of our students and promoting creativity while maintaining a firm stance that the appearance of intolerance or acts of intolerance for others, of any kind, will not be allowed.  We will continue to provide the best educational environment possible while maintaining the highest standards for all our students and employees.

 

 

 



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