board members sue SC officials to prevent consolidation | South Carolina News

TIMMONSVILLE, SC (AP) — Two school board members from a district taken over by South Carolina education officials are suing to stop the state from consolidating the district into a larger one.

The lawsuit said state education superintendent Molly Spearman overstepped her authority by taking control of Florence School District 4 and continued to abuse her power by working to shore up the district in the much larger Florence School District 1, reported the Morning News of Florenc e.

Spearman suspended the school board and took over Florence District 4 in 2018, blaming financial mismanagement and poor student achievement. She has allowed students to attend schools outside the district this school year without paying tuition and plans to send all middle and high school students out of the district next year as consolidation draws to a close.

The lawsuit filed by Florence District 4 Board Chair Lillie Mae Joe and Vice Chair Derrick Echols said the financial issues have been resolved. They challenge the state law cited by Spearman to take control of the district and said his actions “has accelerated the destruction of a school district without legal authority,” according to the lawsuit.

The first legal issue to be determined might be whether Joe and Echols can sue in the first place. The state should assert the power of the school board transferred to Spearman’s agency when it took over.

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The merger would close Timmonsville High School and Johnson Middle School. Florence District 4 has less than 700 students, while Florence District 1 has about 15,000 students.

A spokesperson for the state education department said the agency had not seen the lawsuit and would not comment.

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