Daily Archives: 05/02/2023

School district sued over book ban

By Riley Morningstar
Courtesy The Journal

EASLEY — The five-year ban of an anti-racism book from a local school district is a violation of the First Amendment, attorneys for the Pickens County Branch NAACP said in a federal lawsuit last week.

A 28-page complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the School District of Pickens County was filed in the United States District Court of South Carolina’s Anderson Division on Wednesday. District spokesman Darian Byrd told The Journal on Friday morning the district couldn’t comment, but hadn’t been served papers yet.



The lawsuit filed by the local NAACP branch comes with legal backing from the ACLU of South Carolina and lists three sets of parents with children in the district.

The school board unanimously voted to remove “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You” in September over its use in a 10th-grade English classroom at Daniel High School, saying it violated a state budget proviso restricting districts from using any state money to teach or approve any instructional materials centered around racist concepts. Three parents submitted challenges against the use of the book for promoting “socialism,” “radical Marxism” and “objectible (sic) indoctrination.” Two committees — one of district officials and district parents — each approved the use of the book in classrooms and media centers.

The other book banned for five years was “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” but it was not mentioned in the filing.

The plaintiffs called the move “pure censorship” and alleged the skin color of the board was a factor in the removal.

“The vote was a calculated decision by seven white board members to suppress ideas that they personally and politically oppose, in hopes that fewer students would be exposed to them,” the filing said. “The board may not exercise that authority to silence views based on its political and partisan preferences.”

The filing said the book did not violate state educational curriculum standards and challenged students to develop critical thinking skills. The book by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds “describes and deconstructs the history of racist thought in America and was written specifically for young-adult readers,” according to the plaintiffs’ preliminary statement.

Lawyers also set their sights on the growing South Carolina House Freedom Caucus movement. They took aim at the racial makeup of the group of 20 members — pointing out all 20 were white, and 17 were men.

“The 20 white South Carolinians who act under the banner of the Freedom Caucus believe that their opinions on race are correct and that all other opinions are wrong and dangerous,” the lawsuit said, including screengrabs of praise after the banning from Freedom Caucus House Rep. Thomas Beach and political group Conservatives of the Upstate.

The filing closes by asking for a judge to declare the removal a constitutional violation, reinstate the book in the district and for the defendant to cover attorneys’ fees.


‘Antithetical to the First Amendment’

ACLU of South Carolina legal director Allen Chaney said the removal was “antithetical to the First Amendment and reflects a deep hostility toward America’s promise of a free and pluralistic society.”

“We are hopeful that the courts will vindicate the Constitution and rebuke the cresting wave of censorship we’re experiencing across South Carolina,” he said.

Pickens County Branch NAACP president Shelia Crawford said in a news release, “Black history is American history.”

“We have a responsibility to provide our students with a complete teaching of our nation’s history — both the good and the bad,” she said. “The Pickens County Branch of the NAACP is proud to stand with the national NAACP and ACLU of South Carolina in this lawsuit to protect a curriculum that celebrates diversity, promotes equity, while furthering justice for black America.”

Pickens Comes Alive

Teacher salaries set to get boost in SDPC budget

By Andrea Kelley
Courtesy The Journal

EASLEY — The School District of Pickens County’s budget proposal including raises for teachers and other staff members passed another hurdle last week when the school board approved second reading.

One person took the podium during the public hearing for the nearly $164 million fiscal year

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Grants awarded for water, sewer improvements

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

STATE — Area municipalities and utilities are among the local governments and public water and sewer utilities slated to receive $1.369 billion in grants from the S.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority.

The South Carolina Infrastructure Investment Program grants were announced on April 24. The funds are intended to assist with


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improvements for clean drinking water, sanitary sewer and stormwater resilience, according to a release from the authority.

“The vital infrastructure improvements these funds will deliver across South Carolina will be a game changer,” Gov. Henry McMaster said. “The availability of critical services not only improves the immediate quality of life for our citizens, but it also makes our state more attractive for impactful and sustained economic development.”

The S.C. Infrastructure Investment Program (SCIIP) was created by RIA as a major, one-time initiative designed to have a transformative impact on water, wastewater and stormwater systems in small and disadvantaged communities, as well as larger, growing communities, using federal funds allocated by the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the release said.

“Today, we are making a huge difference by investing in our future,” RIA executive director Bonnie Ammons said. “The funds awarded throughout the state will go a long way in addressing the sustainability of water and sewer systems for the long term. In many cases, these funds will transform communities.”

Projects selected by RIA’s board of directors are designed to address a range of needs that will protect public health and the environment and build capacity for the future, the release said.

Priorities for project selection included regional solutions involving multiple utilities, protection of public health and water quality, resilience and storm protection, modernization of aging infrastructure, capacity development and economic opportunities, the release said.

Liberty Mayor Erica Romo Woods announced her city’s award in a special video message to residents.

“We were awarded — drum roll, please — just over $1.6 million  to help replace our aging water lines,” Woods said.

Liberty was awarded $1,630,136 for water system improvements, the authority said.

Easley Combined Utilities will receive $10 million for the Georges Creek trunk sewer line, the authority said.

The city of Easley will receive $433,951 for Lakeshore Drive drainage system upgrades, the authority said.

The city of Pickens was awarded $4,947,268 for water system improvements.

The Pickens Regional Joint Water System was awarded $10 million for water transmission and storage.

The Pickens County Public Service Commission was awarded $163,803 to replace the filter at the 18 Mile Creek Middle Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The Six Mile Water District was awarded $3,933,440 for water improvements, the authority said.

Except for those requesting grants for planning, all recipients were required to provide matching funds for the grant request, the authority said.

Applicants that serve fewer than 30,000 people, or are located in a county designated as Tier III or IV by the S.C. Department of Revenue, had a 15 percent match requirement. Large utilities, serving more than 30,000, were required to provide a 25 percent match requirement. In all, the SCIIP awards will leverage an additional $900 million in matching funds — local and other dollars committed to implement the projects, the authority said.

According to the city’s Facebook page, the city of Pickens will use bonds for the grant match, for a project total of $6.2 million. Rosier Engineering assisted the city in receiving the funds.

Recipients of the funds will be able to get started on their projects in the next couple of months, with a deadline to spend all funds by Dec. 31, 2026, the authority said.

At least one project in every county in the state is slated to receive funding, the authority said.


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Gun manufacturer coming to Pickens County

By Greg Oliver
Courtesy The Journal

LIBERTY — Global firearms manufacturer FN America LLC, the U.S. subsidiary of FN Herstal S.A., which initially opened operations in Richland County more than 40 years ago, formally unveiled plans last week for a new production facility in Pickens County.

The company will invest $33 million for its approximately more than 100,000-square-foot facility, to be constructed over two phases, at the Pickens County Commerce Park in Liberty. The facility will accommodate FN America’s expanding manufacturing operations.

CEO Julien Compere said the creation of a new plant “is always a very special and unique moment,” and that the project “is a strategic investment for our company, and the choice of the

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Marker dedicated at grave of Revolutionary patriot Miller

By Ann Warmuth
For The Courier

CLEMSON — John Miller was an English printer who believed in a free press, and because he was rather outspoken regarding many political topics in London, he ended up in jail.

Miller was fond of saying “laziness in politics is like laziness in agriculture — it exposes the soil to noxious weeds.”

He immigrated to South Carolina in 1783 and found his American dream — a free press.

Miller’s sixth-great-granddaughter, Sandy Foster, wanted Miller to receive the recognition he

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Jones sworn in in Easley

New Easley City Councilman David Jones, left, was sworn in during a ceremony Monday evening at City Hall. Jones was elected in a special race last week to finish the unexpired term of late Ward 4 Councilman Terry Moore. Jones received 154 of the 225 votes cast in the election to beat Gene Patterson for the seat.

New documentary film tells stories of deadly fentanyl

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

COUNTY — It’s hard to imagine that such a tiny thing has caused such havoc.

Picture a penny. An amount of the synthetic opioid fentanyl that could be lethal is so small it would not fully cover President Lincoln’s nose.

Yet the devastation caused by fentanyl cannot be denied. In 2021, more than 71,000 people died from fentanyl overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The drug, which is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, is mixed in and disguised as other drugs such as

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Lions knock out Southside to begin state title defense

By Bru Nimmons
Staff Reporter

CENTRAL — On an extremely windy evening, the Daniel High School boys’ soccer team began its state championship title defense at home against Southside on Monday in round one of the Class 3A playoffs.

While the wind seemed to throw the Lions off at times, that didn’t stop them from pulling out a dominant 3-0 win.

“I had no doubt in my mind that this was ours,” Daniel head coach Thomas Izaguirre said. “The biggest factor in this game was the wind. There were a lot of

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Liberty falls to Blacksburg

By Bru Nimmons
Staff Reporter

LIBERTY — With a chance to stay atop the region standings, the Liberty Red Devil baseball team hosted Blacksburg last week.

However, the Red Devils were never able to put things together against the Wildcats, falling 5-0 to put them on the road for the majority of the Class 2A playoffs.

“It hurts, for sure,” Liberty head coach Trey Ulmer said. “That’s a good team we lost to. I have no doubt about that, I just don’t think we gave them our best tonight.”

The disappointing result for Liberty came as errors and a huge three-run third inning gave the Wildcats the advantage while the Red Devils struggled to string

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