This isn’t nice at all: Sally Atwater, the not especially articulate candidate for South Carolina schools superintendent, isn’t just unclear on what her positions are; turns out that the widow of the great Republican communications master Lee Atwater is also facing a lawsuit alleging that she verbally abused her special education students and shoved a special needs child in one of her classes. This being South Carolina, it’s anyone’s guess whether the lawsuit will hurt her chances for election — maybe they want a schools chief who’ll git tough on those little troublemaking special needs kids, who may just be faking anyway.
Atwater’s campaign website touts her experience as a special education teacher and as a federal education policy advisor for Ronald Reagan and both Bushes, but it doesn’t mention any of the classroom management techniques alleged in the lawsuit:
The 13-page civil lawsuit, which was filed on June 18th, claims that between 2013 and 2014, a special needs child identified as “BO” was assigned to Atwater’s classroom, where she routinely subjected him to “malicious and demeaning comments” about his disability, allowed her subordinate to forcefully handle BO and other special needs students, and once told the students that when they grew up, they were going to be “thugs, gang members, or end up in jail” in front of school administrators.
No telling what’s going to happen with the suit, which has some really purple prose (PDF link) in it. Yr. Dok Zoom is no lawyer, and wonders if this is just the way that lawsuits get written? For instance, here’s the “yelling at students” bit:
On one occasion, October 2013, when the students were coming back from lunch, Defendant Atwater stopped the students in the hallway and yelled at the special needs students, including BO, that the special needs students, including BO were all either going to be thugs, gang member, or end up in jail, evincing a malicious attitude toward BO and other special needs students. This was done in the presence of school administrators, and others.
So drama! Much yelling! And then there’s the Pinata Incident:
11. On December 19, 2013, Sally Atwater hung a pinata in her classroom. The pinata was filled with candy. Atwater instructed the students to beat the pinata until the candy came out.
12. Just before the candy came out, Atwater yelled out that the students were not to go after the candy.
13. Atwater knew or should have known that children would be naturally inclined to retrieve the candy when it fell on the floor.
14. Like the other students in the classroom, BO tried to retrieve candy from the floor when the pinata was busted open and the candy came out on the floor.
15. With actual malice and intent to harm, and with a crazed, angry look on her face, Atwater charged at and assaulted and physically shoved BO away from the candy from the pinata, touching him offensively and in an unwanted manner.
16. Upon information and belief, Atwater did this act with actual malice and intent to harm.
17. Defendant Atwater’s actions on December 19, 2013 when she charged at and shoved BO served no legitimate educational purpose and can only be described as malicious and harmful acts directed at BO.
18. Plaintiff BO witnessed and apprehended Atwater’s crazed and angry assault, and was caused to be terrified.
The suit also accuses Atwater and the school district of appointing an inadequately trained personal aide for BO who grabbed his arm and shoved him when he tried to get out of his desk and run to his father, causing “bruising and red marks” to the boy’s arm; Atwater is accused of defending the aide’s actions in a letter.
So, there’s some additional stuff for voters to chew on — Is Sally Atwater a child-shover who yells at special needs kids, or is she a firm disciplinarian who just wants her charges to have an accurate understanding of what will happen to them if they don’t straighten up, stop being so weird and special needy, and get their acts together? Or is this all just a malicious partisan attack by helicopter parents who are trying to go all Willie Horton on a good decent candidate who simply wants the best for South Carolina’s children, even if she’s not quite able to say what that is?
Follow Doktor Zoom on Twitter. He can’t remember whether he’s seen Rashomon or not.