A revised student handbook, teachers better able to work with African-American children and increased parental involvement are just a few of the changes some parents of minority students would like to see in Baltimore County public schools.
About 40 concerned parents attended a meeting at Woodlawn Middle School last night to discuss ways they can help make their children's education a success.
The meeting was organized by James R. Pennington, the president of the Baltimore County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Mr. Pennington urged parents to take advantage of the arrival of new school Superintendent Stuart Berger to try to make changes within the system.
"We're not having another superintend ent come into Baltimore County and set up a policy and do it for you, and do it on behalf of you," Mr. Pennington said. "Make sure your input is included."
Woody Grant, chief of the Equal Employment Opportunity Office for the State Department of Education, advised those who attended the meeting to be aware of their rights and responsibilities as parents.
"How challenging are we as parents to our children?" he asked. )) "What kind of teaching examples are we setting for them? Let's create an environment for learning at home."
The meeting broke up into seminars, giving parents an opportunity to raise specific questions about their roles in their children's education.
Doug Sache, an assistant county attorney, discussed the school handbook and rules of discipline.
Edna R. O'Connor, a specialist from the school system's Office of Minority Education, talked about parental involvement.
Many parents said they were unhappy with the student handbook, referring specifically to a rule that mandates a student's expulsion if he or she hits a teacher -- even if it is accidental.
Parents said many white teachers are afraid of black children and send them to the principal's office more frequently in an effort to avoid dealing with even the most minor infractions.
"This rule book is a lot of junk," said one angry grandmother. "The rules only apply to certain kids."
Parents blasted the county's expulsion policy that offers children classes only at night. In-school suspension, they said, would be a far more effective way of dealing with students who misbehave.
Parents also expressed anger over the ways in which suspension and expulsion hearings are handled by the school system. None of the parents said they were aware that they are entitled to have a lawyer represent their child at such a hearing.
"We don't have a chance with the school board," one mother said. "Our children are condemned before they get there."
"We need to do more than just talk," another mother said. "We need to be committed, and guarantee that we will spend the time, whatever it takes, to make changes. Because it won't happen overnight."