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March to P.E. in South Carolina (S.302)

Wando High School, SC

1000 Warrior Way, Mount Pleasant, SC, USA
Charleston County Schools
Director: Bobby Lambert
Category: Engagement with Elected Officials
Award: Gold, 2019

Project Description

When Dr. Don Johnson’s son told him he would have to take Physical Education (P.E.) online in order to fit all of his AP courses and band into his high school schedule, Don was appalled. Wando High School’s marching band students spend hours everyday stretching, dancing, doing yoga, cross-fit, marching, AND playing music. Why could THIS not count as P.E. credit if ROTC and online PE can? He immediately called his friend & Senator Vincent Sheheen, and discovered there was a 2016 bill that passed in the SC Senate that could award PE credit for band. Due to push back from PE groups, the bill died in the House. Senator Sheheen explained the steps, expenses, and process needed to make this bill a reality.

Next, Don used his lobbyist contacts on the MUSC board to find a lobbyist who would be a perfect fit for this cause, Ted Riley. Then Don organized a meeting with South Carolina Band Directors Association (SCBDA), the lobbyist, and Bobby Lambert, Wando Band Director. They explained to SCBDA the political process, expenses, & advocacy required to make this bill into a law. SCBDA then voted to make an all out concerted effort to pass this bill.

Don also organized daily conference calls with SCBDA President Leah Corde & VP Joe Gulledge, along with Ted Riley, the lobbyist, through the political session. Senator Sheehan was the bill sponsor (S.302) in the Senate. The bill passed committee and then through the entire Senate with the help of Don’s friend & former band parent, Senator Gerald Malloy. Representative Rita Allison was our bill’s sponsor in the House. Mike Sottile, our local House Representative for Wando, was contacted by Don as well. He met with Don several times in Columbia and Mt. Pleasant, and was key in getting the bill passed in the House. Passing the bill in the House was a much more difficult & contentious situation. Don & Bobby, with the help of SCBDA organized a group of band directors & parents on May 1, to meet in Columbia & sit in on the House session while the bill was being discussed. About 200 people came to support the bill and stayed most of the day.

After passing both Senate & House, Governor McMaster signed the bill into law May 18, 2018. The South Carolina Band Directors Association has made efforts to get this bill passed for 20 almost years. With the push from Dr. Don Johnson, Wando Band Foundation President & band parent, South Carolina became the 22nd state with PE credit for marching band.

Target Audience

The original target was the South Carolina Band Directors’ Association & the South Carolina Senate & House of Representatives; however, the TRUE audience is every student who is currently in marching band in SC as well as any students who will take marching band in the future.

Community Impact

Our students may now take higher level Advanced Placement course or other courses that students were missing in their schedules due to the South Carolina Physical Education requirement, which they were clearly exceeding the standards for in marching band.

Overall budget


Specific Budget Breakdown

SCBDA has an advocacy fund that they used to pay for the lobbyist ($15,000). All other expenses (travel, phone calls, emails, letters, etc.) were donated by parents.

New or recurring project?

New Project

Challenges/obstacles that were encountered

The P.E. lobbyists in South Carolina were adamant that this bill would not pass, but after a statewide push for band parents to call their legislatures as well as the “sit in” on May 1st by 200 band parents & directors, the lawmakers had no choice but to pass this bill. This has been an issue in South Carolina for almost 20 years, and finally with the help, direction, & push of Dr. Don Johnson, it’s now a law in South Carolina that every child may receive P.E. credit for marching band!

Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?

This project is a success as S302 is now a law, signed May 18, 2018 by Governor Henry McMaster, and now every student in South Carolina may receive Physical Education credit for marching band to fulfill SC High School diploma requirements.

Advice for someone looking to replicate this project in their own community?

Contact your local senators and your state band director’s association. Always invite your local legislatures to your band performances, and always follow up with thank you calls, emails & letters.

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