Residents voice support for SDPC trustee Trotter

COUNTY — SDPC board trustee Ben Trotter and the remarks he has been accused of making concerning special needs students in the district were the topic of conversation once again during the citizen input portion of the May 29 school board meeting.
Several audience members offered their public support of Trotter at the meeting.
Melvin Watson, who said he has a child diagnosed with cerebral palsy, said that the real problem was not with Trotter or his alleged comments; instead it was with the news media.
“I’m really concerned that the news media did not need to magnify the rights of freedom of the press,” Watson said. “We must feed our own convictions and not let them magnify what we think or say. We need to have our words adhered to and spoken without any flowery magnification from the news media.”
“Brother Trotter, I thank you for having a thick skin, for having a strong conviction because you have stood up for what you believe to be right,” Watson said. “You have a dogged determination and you will not step down or cave in to these critics who speak against you. You speak your mind, and this resolve is lacking in our society.”
Another Trotter supporter, Garvin Bolding, said that he was disappointed to hear in the headlines that Trotter was being chastised.
“I’ve known Mr. Trotter for a long time and I do know that the man has a good heart,” said Bolding.
Junius Smith, president of the local organization Conservatives of the Upstate shared Watson’s concerns about the news media’s reporting of allegations surrounding Trotter’s alleged remarks about special needs students in the district.
“I have made an extensive investigation of this whole thing,” Smith said. “The (result) that I came up with was that about half the people are not sure, and another half say it never happened and some say it did. And those that say it did I had to take from the newspaper.
“The thing that bothers me is with this type of information we have castigated a member of the board. And the reason that that man is sitting on the board here is because the previous school board were a bunch of spendthrifts and they broke our constitutional rights. The standards of the board were not very high, so let’s not give Mr. Trotter a hard time.”
Don Lundquist, a regular attendee of SDPC board meetings and a volunteer on the school improvement councils at both Pickens Middle and high schools, echoed the sentiments of those who question the motivations of some SDPC board members.
“If you do not consider the children of this county the most important thing you do — the highest priority — then you shouldn’t be here,” said Lundquist. “That means all the children in this county. Not just a few.”
Also among those addressing the board was Brett Turner. Turner’s daughter is in the SDPC special needs program at Liberty High. He and his family recently attended the State Special Olympics held at Ft. Jackson in Columbia.
Turner described being struck by two huge banners hanging on each side of the stage. One, he said, read “Stop the R word” and the other read “Take a stand.” It is evident, Turner said, that the truth has come to fruition.
“It is now a matter of people having the courage to take a stand for these children,” Turner said. “I want to thank the people who have been an advocate for my child and the special needs children in this county. Dr. Hunt, Mr. (Donivan) Edwards, Mrs. (Lori) Gwinn, the staff at Liberty High School, all the faculty members of Liberty Middle School — thank you for taking a stand,” said Turner. “And Mr. Shelton, thank you for taking a stand and upholding your responsibility as a school board member and for being an advocate for my child. You have done your job with courage and honor.”
Weldon Clark, secretary for the Pickens County Taxpayers Association, said he believes that the attack against Trotter has been an organized effort to eliminate Trotter from the school board.
“It’s no secret there are many bureaucrats who wish there weren’t members like Mr. Trotter who aren’t afraid to call administrators to task and who have the courage to get rid of bureaucrats and hire back teachers,” said Clark. “Trotter has fought to keep the schools on sound financial footing. For years bureaucrats have used the teachers to manipulate the elections. They want to increase taxes.”
For parents of special needs students, like Turner, the outrage surrounding Trotter’s remarks has nothing to do with news media or conspiracy theory, he said. He simply wants justice for his daughter.
“I’m afraid too many of us have forgotten the No. 1 responsibility of being a school board member, and that’s to be an advocate of our children,” Turner said. “It seems a lot of time we are here to inflate our ego. I and others will continue to defend our children and take the proper steps to see that justice prevails for our children.
“The new R word is ‘respect,’ and we ask you school board chair and school board members, Mr. Shelton excluded, to please give our special needs children the respect they deserve by taking a stand and publicly denouncing the remarks made by Mr. Trotter.”
None of the SDPC board members publicly addressed any remarks or concerns at the meeting.