Student Convention To Keep Meeting At Turf Valley Councilman Sanctions Decision, Says Racial Tensions Have Abated

November 14, 1990|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

Howard County student government leaders have decided not to move a statewide convention from Turf Valley Hotel and Country Club despite opposition led by an Oakland Mills High School student.

The Howard County Association of Student Councils, scheduled to be host for the Maryland Association of Student Councils convention in March 1991, voted 31-11 last Thursday against changing the site.

The request to move the convention came after last month's cancellation of the 1991 OMHS prom at Turf Valley. Principal Sue Ann Tabler made the decision after some students and parents objected to having the prom at the Ellicott City country club.

Objections were based on a 1988 incident in which Fred Grimmel, general manager of the hotel, left a message containing a racial slur on the telephone answering machine of Sherman Howell, a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The move to change the convention site was led by Oakland Mills student Trina Overton. Overton declined to comment after the vote, but Kerry Hough, co-leader of the school's delegation to HCASC, said the OMHS delegates generally supported Overton's stance.

"We just feel if we say no to Turf Valley for the prom, how can we say yes to Turf Valley for the convention?" Hough said.

Factors that weighed against changing the convention site, HCASC president Leonard S. Feldman said, included prospective loss of a $3,000 deposit and the need for additional buses that would shuttle the approximately 1,000 student delegates from the Columbia Hilton to meetings at Atholton High School and to a banquet at Martin's West on Security Boulevard.

The decision to keep the convention at Turf Valley had the encouragement of District 3 Councilman C. Vernon Gray, the lone black member of the County Council. However, Gray also commended the Oakland Mills students for their decision to move the prom site.

"There has been some movement (by Turf Valley management) and I feel we should put this (incident) behind us," Gray said.

The councilman met with OMHS students Monday to give them a check for the $500 prom deposit, which was returned to the students by Turf Valley owner Nicholas B. Mangione.

Gray recently met with Mangione and leaders of 14 black organizations to resolve lingering racial concerns from the 1988 incident.

The councilman declined to specify what was discussed at the meeting or what will be discussed at similar meetings he said are scheduled "in the near future."

Mangione was reported out of town and could not be reached for comment.

The HCASC decision was scheduled to be reviewed at a Maryland Association of Student Councils executive board meeting yesterday. The board, made up of 70 students from across the state, had previously approved Turf Valley as the convention site.

The annual convention, which will be cut from three days to two in 1991 as a cost-saving measure, includes regional caucuses, election of state officers, legislation and a chance for student leaders to exchange ideas, said Susan K. Travetto, executive director of MASC.

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