February 10, 2023

H. 3728 would enact the comprehensive “South Carolina Transparency and Integrity in Education Act.” The House amended H. 3728, gave it third reading, and sent the bill to the Senate. The bill states that ideological and viewpoint biases should not be presented as fact to students who receive instruction in public school, that all students should learn in a positive learning environment where they are made to feel welcomed, supported, respected, and free from discrimination; that schools are to establish and foster a positive learning environment, teach critical thinking skills, and prepare students to be college and career ready. The bill asserts that all stakeholders have a shared responsibility for student learning; that parents and students can raise awareness and have their concerns about objectionable material heard and addressed whenever such a topic is discussed; that all entities involved are to work to remove ideological biases from the pre-Kindergarten to grade twelve schools; and, that schools are to be a model for comprehensive, fair, and factual instruction.
The bill enumerates a list of prohibited concepts that may not be included or promoted in a course of instruction. Instructional material and professional development should not promote that one race, sex, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is superior, inherently privileged, or determines moral character. Moreover, these traits should not cause the assignment of fault or bias to an individual or group. A student, administrator, teacher, staff member, other school or district employee, or volunteer shall not be required to attend any instruction, training, or presentation that has the goal or purpose of studying, exploring, or informing attendees about gender roles or stereotypes, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, or romantic or sexual relationships. No student shall attend any instruction, training, or presentation including these topics unless the school has received written permission from the student’s parent.
Library and media center material, both printed and electronically accessible, must be age appropriate and grade appropriate. Determination of the appropriateness of materials should be guided by criteria established by the State Board of Education.

Districts are clearly allowed to teach state academic standards – including concepts such as the history of an ethnic group, the fact-based discussion of controversial aspects of history, and the instruction of the historical oppression of a group of people based on race, sex, ethnicity, class, nationality, religion, or geographic region, including the fact-based and historically accurate discussion of the history of slavery. “Current events” is added to the list of topics that must be taught in a fact-based manner. The state Department of Education must develop model lesson plans accessible to the districts.

The bill provides procedures for public review of public-school curriculum and instructional materials. The State Board shall hold a public hearing before adopting any textbook or instructional material for use in the schools. A school may not accept teaching materials or technology which contains an application, link, or other access to pornographic (defined) or other prohibited materials. A school district that receives such materials must receive disciplinary action as stated in the complaint process.

Beginning with the 2024-2025 school year, each LEA shall prominently post information regarding curriculum and instructional materials on the school district website at least seven days prior to the start of classes. Information must indicate the materials used by school, grade or course, and subject matter, and must include: a listing of the approved textbook for every course offered in the district; a link to statewide academic standards; relevant district policies concerning curriculum development and academic transparency; a process for which parents may review and contest instructional materials and library and media center materials being used; and a process by which parents may withdraw their student from any specific instruction or presentation that that the parent, in the parent’s sole discretion, objects to their student receiving. If curriculum or instructional material are added after the start of classes, they must be posted within three days. For any child who does not attend any instruction or presentation pursuant to this law, the school shall provide to the student alternative educational instruction that furthers the completion of any grade level or graduation requirements and does not include any of the objectionable content; and shall not impose an academic or other penalty upon the student.

A latter section of the bill is intended foster parental involvement and shall not be construed as a mandate on parents that could subject them to retaliation or sanctions from teachers, schools, LEAs, or the State Board of Education. The bill asserts parental expectations and parental involvement in their children’s education – that parents are expected to be the primary source for the education of their children – the “primary source of their student’s education regarding learning morals, ethics, and civic responsibility.”

Provisions are made for complaints and feedback (with means provided for addressing violations). Complaints must be confidential from the time they are filed and remain so until a decision is rendered and may not be shared with a third party. Schools are to adopt a policy for procedures used to report and investigate an alleged violation and the resolution of violations. The legislation provides a comprehensive and extensive system of notices, investigations, due process, appeals, and reports, including a statement by the complainant verifying that he has made a good faith effort to communicate with the individual alleged to have included or promoted the prohibited concept and resolve the matter. The bill requires that a complaint must have a statement verifying that the complainant “has made a good faith effort to communicate with the individual alleged to have included or promoted the prohibited concept.”

If a complaint cannot be resolved locally, an appeal can be made to the State Board for a final determination. The department may withhold funds from the district if it fails to adhere to a corrective action plan. In addition to district losing funds, the committee amendment also calls for the educator to have their certification suspended or revoked if they fail to abide by the plan. A further amendment allows for parents to bring a suit for violations. Declaratory and injunctive relief, along with attorney’s fees and costs, are recoverable.

The House adopted H. 3518 and sent it to the Senate. The bill amends DMV’s driver’s license reinstatement fee payment program. Currently, a person who has had his driver’s license suspended may apply for a temporary license valid for no more than six months to allow time for payment of reinstatement fees. The bill increases the temporary license period to twelve months and allows DMV to provide the person with a fee schedule. The bill lowers the threshold to participate. It also allows the driver to make payments online, except for the first and final payments. Other adjustments are made regarding how often a person participates and restricts the types of driver’s license suspensions that qualify for a reinstatement fee payment program. Regarding violations of operating an uninsured motor vehicle, the bill was amended setting the reinstatement fee at be $600 until adjusted in accordance with the Code. This reinstatement fee may be adjusted annually, at the beginning of the calendar year, based upon and in relation to the average rate level for private passenger automobile insurance coverages by insurers. The Department of Insurance, by annual order, will set this exact fee.
The House gave third reading and sent to the Senate H. 3312, legislation that creates the Child Food and Nutrition Services Study Committee. This ten-member study committee is to examine the advisability of transferring the administration of certain national food and nutrition programs and initiatives currently administered by the State Department of Education to the State Department of Agriculture. These programs include, but are not limited to, the school lunch program, school breakfast program, afterschool snack program, special milk program, and summer food service programs. In addition, the legislation provides for the membership and outlines that the committee shall make a report of its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by January 1, 2024, at which time the study committee terminates.

The House gave third reading and sent to the Senate H. 3538, legislation dealing with electronic harvest reporting. Current law addresses electronic reporting for wild turkey. This bill deletes “wild turkey” and substitutes references to “big game species.” “Big game species” includes white tailed deer, black bear, and wild turkey.

The House gave third reading and sent to the Senate H. 3231, a bill repealing Sections 44-6-300, 44-6-310, and 44-6-320, relating to the responsibility of the Department of Health and Human Services to establish and expand Child Development Services. Upon the recommendation of the Legislative Oversight Committee, the legislation eliminates the outdated requirement of the establishment of this program. The program is no longer operated within the Department of Health and Human Services and is implemented within the Department of Social Services.

The House gave third reading and sent to the Senate H. 3508, legislation that addresses crimes committed by children of military families. Currently, the only exception to the United States’ exclusive jurisdiction over lands it acquires in South Carolina, including Department of Defense military installations, is for service by the state’s civil and criminal process courts. This bill expands the concurrent jurisdiction with South Carolina and the United States over a military installation relating to any violation of federal law committed by a juvenile that is also an offense under state law with two conditions: the United States Attorney, or the United States District Court, for the applicable district in South Carolina waives exclusive jurisdiction; and the violation of federal law is also a crime or infraction under state law. The bill also states that when concurrent jurisdiction has been established, the Family court has exclusive original jurisdiction over these cases.