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Action-A-Day, FOR Monday, 1/10/18 : Ask for Equal Enforcement of School Policies!

CALL TO ACTION:   

Make plans to attend the Carroll County Public School Board Meeting on WEDNESDAY  JANUARY 10, 2018 beginning at 5:00 pm.  At least one of our Carroll CAN Members will be speaking up for justice and for equal enforcement of school policies related to bullying, intimidation, safety and offensive icons being allowed to be worn on school grounds and in classrooms.  It is an issue that is negatively impacting his child as well as uncounted others in our schools in Carroll County and around the country.  The board meeting will be held in the Charles I. Ecker Boardroom, at the Board of Education offices, 125 North Court Street, Westminster Maryland 21157

BACKGROUND 

Earlier this school year, in 2017, the non-enforcement and un-fairly applied enforcement of the school dress code became an issue for several students across our school district.  In particular, one family and their friends, are being directly impacted and they have been trying to use all appropriate and available channels to resolve their concerns.  However, after months of back and forth communication, with the H.S Principal and the Superintendent of Schools, it appears nothing is changed.  

Why does this matter?  Our schools are bastions of learning and education.  They are also cultural institutions which shape our society and its thinking in less official and academic ways as well.  The non-enforcement of these rules in general is giving tacit approval to the promotion of ignorance, at best;   And at worse, intolerance and it's companions:  disrespect, violence and decay of the “American” and “Institutional” values of rule of law, (or in this case, principles, policy or school rules) equality, democracy and justice.  These families deserve better.  We, as citizens of this county, ALL  deserve better treatment, better formal and informal educational experiences.  

Quote: “…..Just because the media-scape both belies and amplifies ignorance on this issue does not excuse a scholastic environment of doing the same. The history and historiography on this is crystal clear, as is the deployment, in this day and age, of these symbols.  Action must be taken; at minimum, the action found in the Student Handbook on these matters. But more concerning is the fact that some (school) employees MUST be tolerant of these apparel choices at school; otherwise my daughter - and other students around the county - would not have been subject to them as often as she has been.”  ————— Mel Brennan, November, 2017.

TO DO NOW :  

1). Plan to attend this meeting.  The meeting begins at 5 pm. The public comment period begins after the business session is completed. 

2). For those present, we will stand as a group, when Mel Brennan begins to address the Board.  This will show solidarity and support of Mr. Brennan and our mutual concerns, to the Board members and Superintendent of Schools.

3). Read the Background information below and the Additional Resources, and prepare your own public comment/statement on this issue in support of the Brennan family and all students who are adversely affected by the unfair application/adherence to school policies.  Be prepared to deliver your statement publicly at this meeting during public comment.  Speakers will have 3 minutes to make their points.

4). Share this post with your friends, family and local rapid response teams.  Ask other groups to join in solidarity on this issue, which isn't confined to this one school, school district or state.

5). Write letters to the School Board members and to Superintendent Guthrie in support of the Brennan family and requesting fair and adequate enforcement of existing rules of safety in our schools.  The impact on all students across school boundaries, is at stake.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES/INFORMATION :  

January 3, 2018. From Carroll CAN Facebook POST

Update: Our family wants the CCPS Board to enforce language already present in the CCPS Student Handbook on page 14 ("...Clothing shall not convey symbols or messages generally accepted to promote intolerance, hate, racial slurs, or sexual harassment...") when it comes to confederate flag iconography, symbols which promote intolerance, hate and racial slurs.

Original Letter written to Principal Baugher at Westminster H.S., November 2017:

Hello,

I am a parent of a Westminster High School freshman. She has made clear to my wife and I that on several different occasions she has been subject to apparel worn by other students with the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, Confederate States of America (typically referred to as the "Confederate flag") on them.

As a mixed-race individual, she is experiencing the presence of this apparel at school as hate speech reflective of the commitments of the Founders of the Confederacy. In other words, kids walking around sporting the Confederate flag on their shirts is fomenting neither a safe nor a healthy school environment for her.

Why? Well, our daughter has been educated to factual historic submissions by traitors like Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens. She is aware that he wrote and said that "...Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth..."

Thus educated to knowable American history, our daughter experiences Confederate apparel on school grounds as supportive and amplifying of the racist hate speech of traitors such as Stephens and the racist hate speech of today which deploys the iconography and language of the racist, hateful leaders of our past.

She experiences those apparel choices as specifically inflammatory to the educational environment, and as an invitation to conflict on the basis of historical and current racial hatred, racial harm and racial discrimination...which they of course are.

To subject others in the semi-public, deeply controlled and speech-limited environment that is public school to such hate speech IS to additionally try to make them HAVE to endure such hate speech while at school; it, by its very presence, tries to confer second-class status upon my daughter and any other non-white student, channeling the broken physical, philosophical and moral thinking of the hateful racist under the guise and shield of "free speech."

This is, of course, unacceptable.

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District and subsequent case law have made it clear that, yes, young people in school DO have the right to difficult speech at school EXCEPT when students are causing "substantial disruption" to the primary work of school - to deliver spaces replete with the tools of well-being that facilitate learning. Such rulings have made it clear to most that this is definitively inclusive of inflammatory speech likely to cause disruption and, of course, hate speech in its totality. Confederate flags in school - just like swastikas in school, or KKK masks in school - definitively fail this test, and for most of the same reasons.

It is a tribute to my daughter and kids like her that they have refrained from challenging such debasing speech in favor of trying to simply get through the school day; that doesn't change the inflammatory nature of the speech, of the apparel. Their patience doesn't change the likelihood that conflict over such hate speech is predictable.

You can change this.

Please issue directives to students today that make it clear that such hate speech with such historic and current significance will not be allowed in the dress code of Westminster High School.

Failure to do so immediately will result in further action by our family to ensure that our daughter and any other student at Westminster High School does not have to be subject to the daily, mandatory imposition of hate speech while simply trying to get their education. 

Warmly, Mel Brennan

"We are tied together in life and in the world." - MLK, 1960.

November 16, 2018. Original Letter to Carroll County Superintendent, Guthrie:

My letter to the Superintendent of Carroll County Public Schools, after speaking with the Principal of Westminster HS regarding my daughter being subject to confederate flag iconography while at school:

Hello,

I write to you after having spoken on the phone with the robustly responsive and reasonable Principal of Westminster High School at length on the grievous matter of my daughter being subject to iconography and hate speech (through apparel choice) that embraces white supremacy and racial hatred while attending school.

He's speaking directly with my daughter, which is a solid first step. He is doing so, in part, to seek the specific students my daughter witnessed wearing apparel adorned with the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia - also commonly known at the "confederate flag" - while in the hallways, on school property, on their phone cases and at the football games at WHS.

He submitted that he is doing so that he can speak to them directly about not wearing the symbols, turning their shirts inside out, etc. He said - Mr. Baugher please correct my recollection where I'm wrong, or extend and amplify it where I might be incomplete - that in previous situations students challenged by him have submitted "history" as a reason for wearing the apparel, and that such students, upon deeper questioning, have been unable to express any historical facts related to the iconography, and that, resultantly, they have been directed to, and acquiesced to, not wearing the apparel again/turning it inside out, et cetera.

While a congenial conversation (that is, Principal Baugher seems like a very nice guy, but beyond the civility of the discourse, which is fine, not sure that matters; I mean, I'd rather have a belligerent principal who enforced the policy referred to below than a nice guy who kept the status quo!), I submitted that while his tactical approach was some kind of start as it relates to my daughter and her specific situation, it was ultimately not satisfactory.

Specifically, while referring generally to it, our conversation failed to examine the specific language on page 15 of the Carroll County Public Schools Student Handbook (https://www.carrollk12.org/ab…/Documents/studenthandbook.pdf), under Dress Code/Other, which submits that "Clothing shall not convey symbols or messages generally accepted to promote intolerance, hate, racial slurs, or sexual harassment".

To me, this is straightforward; the "confederate flag" is definitely a symbol of intolerance and racial hate...it is DEFINITIVELY that before it is/can be claimed to be anything else!

As I submitted to Principal Baugher in an e-mail communication on 13 November, our daughter has been educated to factual historic submissions by traitors like Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens. She is aware that he wrote and said that "...Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth..."

Thus educated to knowable American history, our daughter experiences Confederate apparel on school grounds as supportive and amplifying of the racist hate speech of traitors such as Stephens and the racist hate speech of today which deploys the iconography and language of the racist, hateful leaders of our past.

This is definitively a violation of the aforementioned language found on page 15 of the Handbook.

Additionally, this should not require any test related to intent. The icon itself is one that promotes intolerance and hate. Swastikas and KKK iconography are the same, and they would not be tolerated as apparel in schools. Why would the "confederate flag?" Principal Baugher submitted that there might be an interpretive difference between KKK iconography and that of the Confederate flag. There is no difference; both are the symbols and messages of intolerance and racial hatred.

Just because the media-scape both belies and amplifies ignorance on this issue does not excuse a scholastic environment of doing the same. The history and historiography on this is crystal clear, as is the deployment, in this day and age, of these symbols.

Action must be taken; at minimum, the action found in the Student Handbook on these matters. But more concerning is the fact that some employees MUST be tolerant of these apparel choices at school; otherwise my daughter - and other students around the county - would not have been subject to them as often as she has been.

Elevating this to the Superintendent level, and requesting you amplify the language on page 15 as inclusive of displays of that flag, and the subsequent intensity of enforcement regarding their presence on school property, are my next steps as found here.

Anything else means that Carroll County Public School would, relative to its own Policy, be submitting that the confederate flag is not generally accepted as a symbol or message of hate and intolerance, in which case we have a different/additional set of problems. That is, I seek redress on this matter initially as it is captured within CCPS own Student Handbook, but reserve the right, beyond any Handbook interpretation, to seek policy change on this issue.

My concern has of course grown beyond Waverly Jain, and for the school system as a whole, as I meditate on the many other students of color and conscience who are subject to this across the system at school on a daily basis, while enforcers of dress code beyond Principal Baugher are in the hallways on a regular basis certainly seeing other features of the code to enforce, but, apparently, not seeing this one, or at minimum not seeing it often enough.  Please let me know the specific actions you will take first as they relate to page 15 of the policy and my requests, above.

Carroll County Maryland, Student Handbook:  https://www.carrollk12.org/about/Documents/studenthandbook.pdf