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Spartanburg School District Sued by Woman Banned for Attack

Legal battle aftermath illustration

Spartanburg School District Sued by Woman Banned for Attack

Retaliatory Ban Sparks Lawsuit Seeking Access to School Board Meetings

CAMPOBELLO — A frequent attendee of meetings across northern Spartanburg County was barred from Spartanburg County School District 1 events and property. Now she’s suing the district to regain access.

Kim Sherwood sees her ban from the boardroom as the district retaliating for her exercising her First Amendment rights. But the district paints her as an interloper who harassed officials at the small district office, struck a board member, and interfered with professionals doing contract work for the school system, which serves a rural swath of Spartanburg County.

First Amendment Advocate or Gadfly?

Sherwood, 69, is an advocate for government transparency. In retirement, many kick back and relax, but since moving to South Carolina in 2019, by her count, she has filed at least 100 requests under the Freedom of Information Act. She uses what she learns to fill a gap in an area with little media coverage through her currently offline Facebook page, The Greater Landrum Observer, which she dedicated to keeping an eye on local governments.

District 1, a frequent target of Sherwood’s critical eyes, in March sent her a cease-and-desist letter, penned by attorney Ken Darr, calling her information requests and behavior toward district officials “demeaning, defamatory, aggressive, unduly burdensome, overly broad, vague, repetitive” and demanded she stop, or else the district would pursue legal remedies.

The fractious relationship escalated earlier in December 2023 when officials say Sherwood attacked newly elected school board member Barbara Hopper.

Assault and Battery or Bogus Claims?

According to Sherwood’s lawsuit, she was making the rounds by stopping by at an audit committee district meeting, like she usually did, on Dec. 11, 2023. After it ended, she went to ask the outside auditor a question. While she was speaking with the auditor, the lawsuit states that school board member Hopper “approached silently” behind Sherwood to also speak with the auditor.

Then there’s a gap. Somehow, the situation escalated from Sherwood telling Hopper that she was already speaking with the auditor, with the auditor stating Sherwood had assaulted a school board member. In Hopper’s formal complaint, the gap is filled with her account. She states that as she reached out her hand to the auditor to introduce herself, Sherwood hit her arm away so hard that it bruised.

A criminal case against Sherwood describes the incident as third-degree assault and battery, and an incident report from the Campobello Police states that Sherwood struck Hopper on the arm with her hand.

Wesley Few, the lawyer trying to make sure Sherwood can return to district meetings, calls the charges bogus. “(Sherwood) didn’t do anything to hurt this woman,” Few said.

At first, Hopper did not want to press assault charges against Sherwood but wanted Sherwood “trespassed” and unable to contact her in any way, which led to Sherwood’s ban from the district.

A Monthslong Gap and Retaliatory Arrest?

More than three months after the Dec. 11 encounter, Campobello Police Chief McNeill arrested Sherwood on March 20 while she attended an evening public meeting in Landrum. The police took her to the Spartanburg County Detention Center for processing, and she spent the night in jail, not leaving until the next day.

According to Sherwood’s attorneys, the monthslong gaps between the initial incident, the arrest warrant, and the actual arrest are uncommon. The attorneys believe the arrest was retaliatory and unnecessary, given Sherwood’s age and lack of criminal record.

In the meantime, Sherwood’s lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction so she can return to meetings. No hearing date has been set.

It remains to be seen how this legal battle between Sherwood and the Spartanburg County School District 1 will unfold, with both parties firmly entrenched in their positions.

Stay tuned for updates on this ongoing story.

Spartanburg School District Sued by Woman Banned for Attack Spartanburg SC

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