State Journal

January 15, 1997 1 min read

Battle of Columbia

Barbara Stock Nielsen, the South Carolina state schools superintendent, hasn’t heard the end of suggesting that the state stop flying the Confederate battle flag above the Statehouse in Columbia.

While Gov. David Beasley, a fellow Republican, holds the same position, Ms. Nielsen has become a target of flag supporters, one of whom suggested she go into hiding.

Ms. Nielsen received the correspondence from Republican Rep. John Graham Altman 3rd shortly after she asked state education associations “to approve a resolution supporting the effort to find a suitable compromise on the Confederate flag.”

But Mr. Altman suggested that after taking such a stance, she might want to seek federal protection.

“The kindest help I can offer you on any level is to try to get you quickly qualified for the Federal Witness Protection Program,” he wrote on Dec. 20. The letter also stated that Ms. Nielsen could be placed in another state, “where you may start a new life free of pressures that are obviously beyond you.”

Mr. Altman later told reporters that the letter was not meant as a threat. However, Ms. Nielsen was dismayed by the letter’s “unfortunate tone.”

“Even if people have differences of opinions, there must be a civilized way to discuss them,” she said.

The superintendent has asked state education department lawyers to look into possible action against Mr. Altman.

Taking stock

A report commissioned by the Michigan state school board created an uproar last month by suggesting that the state get rid of its public schools and instead create a network of corporations in which local residents would hold voting stock.

The state board voted merely to receive the report rather than endorse its findings. The ideas produced by the James Madison College at Michigan State University cost the panel $150,000. Critics said the board should demand its money back.

“This report is not credible, logical, or worthy of an expenditure of $150,000 in taxpayers’ money,” said Linda Bruin, a lawyer for the Michigan Association of School Boards.