LEXINGTON SCHOOL DISTRICT FOUR
GASTON-SWANSEA Linda G. Lavender, Ph.D., Superintendent
607 East Fifth Street
Swansea, South Carolina 29160
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”.
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.
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.
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