Dreher, Lower Richland embroiled in dispute over basketball game

dhinshaw@thestate.com, cclick@thestate.comFebruary 24, 2014 

Allegations that Lower Richland basketball fans were treated disrespectfully by Dreher High School administrators has led to a huge dust-up between the two Richland 1 schools in an issue that could make its way to the school board Tuesday.

Sheriff Leon Lott on Monday said Lower Richland’s school-resource officer was the target of inappropriate comments by administrators, too – apparently stemming from where some Lower Richland students were seated during the game. Lott said his officer, Terrance Acox, provided information to Richland 1 superintendent Percy Mack as part of a look into events during the Feb. 8 game at Dreher.

The brouhaha between the two high schools has produced competing versions of events, resulting in the appearance of a Richland County Council member before the school board and leading to a rally for longtime Dreher athletics director Mike DuBard.

The “I Stand with Mike DuBard” rally was prompted by rumors making the rounds on social media that the school board is considering DuBard’s dismissal after County Councilman Kelvin Washington’s appearance before the board Feb. 18.

It’s unclear whether the school board will take up the matter at its 7 p.m. meeting – and why DuBard is the focus of the 6 p.m. rally.

Washington, whose son plays basketball for Lower Richland, told the board last week that he was upset by the way Dreher’s administrators acted at the game, and that he hoped the board would address the issue, he said.

Two school board members, Jamie Devine and Vince Ford, confirmed Washington’s characterization of his comments.

While Washington did not name anyone when addressing the board, he said in an interview afterward it was Dreher’s principal, Jeanne Stiglbauer, who “screamed and yelled” at Lower Richland parents and students, telling them to move into different bleachers and threatening them with arrest if they did not.

“Dreher’s principal treated the kids from Lower Richland with disrespect and in a threatening manner,” Washington said.

Efforts Monday to reach Stiglbauer and Lower Richland principal Kelvin Wymbs were unsuccessful.

Washington said the gym was packed, so some Lower Richland fans could only find seats behind Dreher’s team. “Then she moved kids from the so-called Dreher side,” Washington said. “If you’ve got a full facility, and the only seats you see are on the other side, you sit there.”

Washington said he was perplexed by three emails he got from Dreher parents over the weekend, accusing him of trying to have DuBard fired.

“The conversation I had was strictly with the principal,” Washington said Monday. “Now they’re trying to throw him under the bus. But when I addressed the school board, I said ‘administrative staff.’”

Richland County Council chairman Norman Jackson said he got a call from the game from Wymbs, the Lower Richland principal, who was concerned about what was happening. Jackson has two nieces and a nephew who play basketball for Lower Richland.

Jackson said he arrived in the second half of the girls’ game and was speaking to Wymbs when Stiglbauer came up to tell Lower Richland’s principal to move his students from one end of the bleachers, across from Dreher students, to the opposite end, near the door.

“He said, ‘Why do you want to do that?’ ... She said, ‘I want these kids quiet and I don’t want them moving’” in and out of the gym.

Jackson said when he protested that “these kids are your guests, and they should be treated as such,” Stiglbauer became upset and told a nearby police officer to escort him out. The officer ignored her, Jackson said.

Jackson said the rivalry between the two schools is “like Clemson and Carolina; they chant to each other; it’s all in good spirit.”

On Facebook, meanwhile, the “I Stand with Mike DuBard” page was overflowing with comments about DuBard’s excellent character and work ethic, his influence on students and athletes and his unfailing focus on safety.

The page publicized the rally at the school district office and encouraged people to wear Dreher blue.

“If you have an LR friend that supports Mike, they are welcome to come dressed in whatever color they want. This is NOT about Dreher vs LR,” Steve James Coker wrote. “This is about a good man wrongly attacked. All good hearted people are welcome to show their support, no matter what.”

Former Columbia Mayor Bob Coble weighed in, noting that he and DuBard, both Dreher graduates, roomed together for a year in college and served as groomsmen in each other’s weddings. Between Mike DuBard and his father, Ken DuBard, Coble said the family “has been serving Richland One for more than six generations.”

The Dreher-Lower Richland dust-up comes on the heels of a fatal confrontation between a Dutch Fork High School student and an alumnus of Lexington High School following a basketball game Feb. 17.

Lott, meanwhile, said his school-resource officer quickly made him aware of what had happened at the game.

“They were totally out of line toward the SRO and the people from Lower Richland High School,” Lott said.

He said Acox, who was named the state’s top SRO in 2013, “handled it with restraint.”

When asked how, Lott said, “He didn’t lock ’em up.”

The sheriff would not name the administrators he considered responsible.

“This is something the school district is handling. It’s not a law enforcement issue at this point. I’ve talked to Dr. Mack and he is handling it internally as a personnel matter at the school.”

Richland 1 board members Devine and Ford, meanwhile, said they expected the superintendent to deal with the issue.

“Dr. Mack and his staff, they do the investigation,” Devine said. “I don’t get into that. To me, that’s kind of micromanaging.”

Both also said Washington’s comments were made as a constituent, not as a member of County Council who approves the school board’s budget.

“He’s not the first elected official to come and talk,” Ford said. “I didn’t feel threatened or anything; I just listened.”

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641 and Click at (803) 771-8386.

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