So the state PTA has revoked the charter of the Charleston County PTA.

Do you know what that means?

Yeah, apparently we had a countywide PTA. Who knew?

Earlier this month, the South Carolina Parent Teacher Association disbanded our county PTA, saying that its officers were not installed according to bylaws. Basically, the local president - who had been appointed instead of elected - had also appointed several officers to the board.

Which is evidently a no-no. They were supposed to be elected by the membership.

This really blew up when some principals and parents called the state to complain that the new regime was rubbing people the wrong way.

Now, the PTA didn't accuse the widow Johnson of wearing her dresses "way too high," but they obviously annoyed someone with their heavy-handed ways.

You know, school politics make Washington seem almost civil.

Now the state PTA people and the ousted county PTA people are in a big fight. Well, the state acted and the county folks are saying nasty things.

Unfortunately the kids, which is who this is supposed to be about, don't come up much in this battle.

The only good news here is that we can't blame the Charleston County School District for this mess. They had nothing to do with it.

In fact, some school board members didn't even know there was a county PTA organization.

Which, of course, raises several disturbing questions.

A falling out

A PTA is a fairly simple concept: parents come together to support their children's teachers.

They might do things like buy classroom supplies, take on projects at the school or raise money to pay for things the state or district doesn't - or can't.

Maybe they put on a talent show, host a spaghetti dinner. That's about as Americana as it gets.

The PTA at the national level has done a lot for kids over the years. We have kindergarten, hot lunches and school nurses, all thanks to the lobbying efforts of the PTA. Few people would argue any of those are bad things.

Now all this national, state and county level PTA stuff sounds pretty bureaucratic. But fact is, the organization offers guidance, support and trains local PTA folks how to handle money and maintain their nonprofit status.

In theory it's a fine idea, especially since most of it is volunteer work.

But like everything else these days, you give somebody a little responsibility, or put them in charge of an organization, and you are going to end up with at least a few Harper Valley hypocrites. You know, busybodies.

The county PTA sounds a little like a homeowners association. Give someone the relative powers of a mall cop, and politics take hold.

The state didn't get involved until they started getting complaints to keep the county PTA president out of some schools.

They decided to investigate. And the president showed up at these meetings with her vice president, local school district critic Henry Copeland - a man once banned from district headquarters at 75 Calhoun St. after he was accused of harassing administrators.

The first time the state PTA nearly had Copeland escorted out of the room by security; by the second meeting they actually did it. Which just goes to show Copeland has an amazing talent for rubbing people the wrong way.

And that's when the state socked it to the Charleston Valley PTA.

A few good people

Right now, local PTAs are getting correspondence from both the state PTA and the ousted county PTA claiming - Al Haig-like - that they are in charge.

Charleston County School Board member Elizabeth Moffly, who has been an officer for the county PTA, says it's a "can of worms." But, she says, the county PTA did everything according to bylaws, that this is all about the state trying to control them.

Moffly is used to big-time politics, some of the others aren't. Some county PTA board people have said some ugly stuff about the state folks. Again, little of this has anything do with the kids.

Tanya Robinson, the president-elect of the state PTA, says Charleston County PTA used to be the flagship of the state organization, and she wants to see it returned to that. The state group, on the advice of national PTA officials, will run the local organization until they find some good volunteers.

Good luck with that.

It's hard enough these days to find decent people to run for elected office.

Who in their right mind would willingly subject themselves to school politics, or the spiritual descendents of the Harper Valley PTA?

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com