Liberty principal claims alleged comments true

COUNTY — As parents continue to call for an investigation into alleged comments made by school board trustee Ben Trotter at a Feb. 28 faculty meeting, the principal of Liberty Middle School has said that he heard the alleged comments.
At last Monday night’s meeting of the SDPC board of trustees, Clemson Elementary principal Ken Weichel, representing the Pickens County Principal’s Association, alleged that Trotter had said at the February meeting “I will give you an example of wasted money over at Liberty High School. They have retarded students sitting in wheelchairs playing with cars, just taking up space.”
“I was present at the February 28 meeting at Liberty Middle School, and the statement from the Pickens County Principal’s Association is accurate,” Donivan Edwards claimed in a brief statement to the Courier earlier this week.
Trotter has been accused of making the comments in response to budget questions about wasted money in the school district during the meeting, but has denied making the comments, even offering to take a lie detector test if Edwards and another Liberty-area principal would take them as well.
“I have full confidence in both principals and have always found them to be honest individuals of high character,” school district superintendent Dr. Henry Hunt said in a statement last week. “I have no reason to doubt the veracity of statements they have made at any time. I fully support them as school-level leaders and regret that their time and energy have been diverted from our students after a single individual has questioned their honesty.”
Brett Turner, the father of a special needs child who attends school in Pickens County, said that he and other parents “don’t want the issue to die.”
“We want to bring attention to it,” Turner said. “It is my responsibility not only for my daughter Jordan, but for all the other special needs kids. They are defenseless, and we as a society need to understand this and stand up for them.”
Turner is one of several parents who spoke at the last school board meeting in response to the alleged comments. When asked if he had been made aware of any plans by the district to pursue an investigation into Trotter’s alleged comments, Turner said that board chair Alex Saitta had followed through on his promise to talk with Liberty Middle School principal Donivan Edwards.
Whether or not an investigation will be conducted remains to be seen. Trotter said Tuesday that he did not know whether an investigation had been planned.
Although he said he could not say who advised him in the matter, Trotter said “I have been informed not to say anything at all about this. If they do an investigation, I would be the first to welcome it. I understand it’s up to Mr. Saitta or the parents. We’ll see what they come up with.”
Saitta said the school board and district have no course of action to take on the matter.
“I sought advice from the school board’s lawyer, and she said state ethics law governs the conduct, investigation, punishment or removal of elected officials,” Saitta said. “While I don’t believe anything Mr. Trotter said or might have said violates ethics laws, anyone can file a complaint with the ethics commission or the state attorney general. Mr. Trotter used an insensitive term, but the context it was used in is a he said/she said. He was not speaking for the school board or the school district. I feel terrible about this ordeal for all involved.”
Turner and other parents of special needs children in the School District of Pickens County understand that while no law might have been broken, their concern is accountability and to whom SDPC board members are accountable.
“Even if he didn’t use the R-word, he still said that our special needs kids are taking up space,” said turner. “You can’t say stuff like that. The precedence has been set. Trotter is representing the school board.”