SC principal removed after allegedly forcing student to clean school bathroom with toothbrush

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, S.C. — After a family said a 9-year-old girl was told to clean a South Carolina elementary school bathroom with a toothbrush, Channel 9 has learned the principal behind the punishment is no longer at the school.

Chesterfield County Schools said it investigated the toothbrush incident and then made the decision to put another principal at Jefferson Elementary School.

Parents received a letter Thursday saying Andrea Garrison will be replaced by Angela Demby. The new principal will start on Monday.

“I was surprised yesterday when I got the phone call they were replacing her. I didn’t know why, so I was really surprised,” said grandparent Shelia Mcinvaille.

Some parents were angry and protested the decision Friday morning, with signs showing their support for the principal they called “Mrs. G.”

Irene Avery said she was disappointed in the protest supporting a woman she said humiliated and demeaned her granddaughter by making her clean a school bathroom with a toothbrush.

“They were so upset and crying. The only thing I could think of was to get there and see what I could do,” Avery said. “I just can’t believe this in Chesterfield County.”

Avery said the principal made her granddaughter clean the bathroom after she put too much tissue in the toilet last month.

“A toothbrush and cleaning supplies to clean the floor,” Avery said. “It was more than I could take and I just find it so belittling to a child to do such a thing as this. I don’t care what they did.”

Avery said there were potential health hazards that came with the punishment.

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“The toothbrush could have caused her death,” Avery said. “That toothbrush could have had enough germs on it to make her sick -- to kill her -- and I am very, very angry.”

Chesterfield County School Board members said to their knowledge, the incident was already handled.

Avery complained to the school board at its meeting Monday night.

One official at the meeting responded, “Thank you for your comments. The board understands this issue has been addressed by the administration in a matter that the administration believes to be appropriate.”

Channel 9 asked the State Board of Education if principals can hand out that type of punishment without a parent’s permission.

State school officials said that all districts in South Carolina must base their discipline policies on a minimum standard of student conduct and disciplinary enforcement.

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Page 4 of the policy reads that an administrator should, “notify the parent or guardian of the student’s misconduct.”

The policy also states that the administrator should, if necessary, meet with, “the parent or guardian and confer with them about the student’s misconduct and impose the appropriate disciplinary action.”

Avery said she was not contacted about that.

“(We) wouldn’t have known if she hadn’t come home and told us,” Avery said.

Officials did not elaborate on the results on the investigation, or say if Garrison was fired or just repositioned within the district.

The district said Wednesday it is a personnel matter, and it could not comment on it further.

The S.C. Department of Education has an online complaint form for the public. CLICK here for the form.

On Friday, the Chesterfield County School District sent Channel 9 the following statement:

Chesterfield County Schools has conducted an exhaustive internal investigation into the incident at Jefferson Elementary School and has taken appropriate personnel measures after that investigation.

Also, beginning on Nov.15, Angela Demby will become the acting principal of Jefferson Elementary. Demby has served in a number of leadership roles in Chesterfield County Schools, including serving as the principal of McBee Elementary from 2017 to 2021. Demby retired at the end of 2021 but returned to the district this school year to work as a guidance counselor three days a week at a county elementary school.

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