School administrator accused of calling children failures

Several parents of students at Spauling Elementary School in Lamar, in Darlington County, say Assistant Superintendent Linda Graham ridiculed their children and called them failures in front of their classmates.

Last week, they say Graham visited the school to talk with students about their scores on the MAP test, a standardized test given to assess student progress.

The parents say Graham separated the fourth and fifth graders into groups of those who passed and those who didn't.

They say she called the students who didn't pass failures.

"My child was on the side that was failing. She missed it by a couple of points. She passed the other one. She came home and told me that they had sectioned the kids out," said one parent, Kristen Dorriety.

"I was not very happy because my child was called a failure because that's dealing with self-esteem issues, and plus, I would consider it called bullying," said Donna Knots, another parent.

"When speaking with kids, we have to think about the things that we say. It's not what you say sometimes, it's how you say it and the words that we choose to use," said Sha'Ron Maples, an aunt of one of the students.

The parents showed WPDE NewsChannel 15 letters from students saying how the administrator's comments impacted them.

"I felt discouraged and bad because she made me a failure. Also, I felt disappointed," one of the letters stated.

The parents say they met with Graham Thursday morning in the school cafeteria to talk about what happened.

They say they were told she was going to apologize, but they didn't take it that way.

"She kept saying that she didn't call them failures, but there's too many children and they're not going to lie about it," Knotts said. "Even the ones that passed said she said it."

"She didn't really admit to calling them failures, but she just talked about how she had had all these accomplishments in her life," said Dorriety.

The Darlington County School District issued a statement saying, "In an effort to praise the students who had done well to push themselves harder, the district administrator made some children feel as if they had not succeeded."

It does not name the administrator.

It goes on to say it was an unfortunate event and does not reflect the sentiment or philosophy of the Darlington County School District, Spaulding Elementary School, or the schools of Darlington County.

"We believe every child can learn and succeed," said Superintendent Dr. Rainey Knight. "We strive to create supportive and nurturing education environments for our children. I regret some children were made to feel they failed. The district administrator has asked to apologize."

However, some parents say the damage is already done and their children are having a hard time with the administrator's comments.

"She walks around and she'll tell me that she's a failure and that she wasn't going to do this anymore. She said she wasn't going to try anymore on the MAP testing because she tried and missed it by five points," said Knotts.

Some of the parents have called officials with the South Carolina Department of Education to report the administrator's comments. They say they feel she is a bully.

"She needs to be written up, reprimanded or something," said Knotts.

The parents say state officials have told them they will not look into this matter because it needs to be handled on a district level.