From the moment I first heard that Bud Walpole had been removed from his post as the head coach of the Academic Magnet High School football team after the so-called watermelon incident, I wanted to know exactly what students told the Charleston County School District staffers who interrogated them.
Given the fact that Walpole was more or less fired as head coach, it seems only logical that some of the students must have acknowledged the racist sensitivity of their actions — or perhaps noted that a certain degree of racism played a role in the watermelon ritual. After all, without some sort of admission on the part of the players or coaches, the immediate grounds for Walpole's removal quick dismissal seems hasty, if not unnecessary (that said, the coach should have known that the watermelon ritual would offend African Americans).
As such, I reached out to CCSD on day one asking for any materials regarding the investigation. So far, I haven't received them. However, the school district has said that they are working on it.
Local attorney Andy Savage has also FOIA'd materials from CCSD's investigation. See, Savage has been asked by Academic Magnet's School Improvement Council to find out exactly what happened during the investigation leading up to Walpole's removal. Savage is working pro bono.
Below is Savage's recently released statement on the matter:
I have been asked by the Chair of the School Improvement Council (SIC) to assist in promoting the best interest of the students of Academic Magnet High School.
I have asked the District’s administration to work with Academic Magnet High School’s Schools Improvement Council to better understand the recent disruptive events at the school.
The District must hold accountable those who were responsible. If District policy permitted this event to transpire then those policies must be modified. The students who were subjected to this incident (both athletes and non athletes) should be protected from further harm and any negative effect to the individual students should be immediately addressed. As a community focused on the best interest of our children, we must proceed cautiously and not overstate the consequences of this unfortunate incident. Students, faculty, staff and administrators should proceed thoughtfully and in doing so, provide to our future leaders a blueprint of how a concerned community reacts to a disturbing and highly charged emotional event.
I am confident that a calm approach to understand the incident that led to the disruption and to formulate a positive path forward will turn this situation into a valuable learning experience for all involved and nothing more.