The county NAACP chapter charges that Harford's school system discriminates against minorities in hiring and promotions and has asked the state school superintendent to investigate.
"NAACP is a 'push' organization," said Joseph Bond, president of the Harford County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
"We have some legitimate concerns, and we want them answered."
The NAACP charges "traditional and continuous slow movement the ladder' of minority" employees and criticizes the school system for what it calls "slow or non-recognition of the achievements and the educational preparation" of minorities.
Mr. Bond said he had facts to support the NAACP's claims but said he would not provide specifics until a meeting with Ray R. JTC Keech, the county school superintendent, scheduled for next week.
According to the NAACP, minority teachers are "rarely moved to administrative positions," while non-minority teachers rapidly advance.
Also, so few minorities teach in the county that some students could complete 12 years of school without ever having a minority teacher, Mr. Bond said.
The NAACP branch, which has about 900 members, sent state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick a letter listing 22 concerns in late May but has yet to receive a response, Mr. Bond said.
Ms. Grasmick has received the NAACP letter and is developing a response, said Ron Peiffer, a spokesman. The state superintendent also has met with Harford County school officials about the NAACP letter, Mr. Peiffer said.
About 5 percent of the county's 2,029 teachers are minorities, and about 10 percent of the county's 34,000 students are minorities, said Albert F. Seymour, school system spokesman.
Mr. Keech, the county superintendent, denied that the Harford school system discriminates against minorities.
"I think these accusations are based on misconceptions which can be cleared up once the facts are known," he said.
"When people see our record, I think they will want to give us a medal."
Harford County schools have about the same percentage of black teachers as other school systems, Mr. Keech said.
The school system would like to hire more minority teachers, but the competition is fierce, he said.
The county superintendent said he has asked Mr. Bond and other NAACP members to tell the school system what it can do to attract more minority teachers.
County schools do not hire teachers or administrators based on a quota system, Mr. Keech said.
"If you want to get a job in the Harford County schools, it is very simple: Be the best," Mr. Keech said.
George Lisby, a member of the school board, also denied that the school system discriminates against minorities.
"We can answer all charges completely and satisfactorily," said Mr. Lisby, who is black.
"Harford County schools are very progressive. But there is always need for progress, and we will continue to work on making progress."
Mr. Bond said the NAACP chapter decided to write the letter after minority teachers complained of being denied promotions.
He said complaints came from educators and other individuals.
Organizations such as the Ministerial Alliance, a group of minority religious leaders in Harford and Cecil counties, and the Minority Affairs Committee, part of the county teachers union, the Harford County Education Association, also complained about the school system's treatment of minorities, Mr. Bond said.
The NAACP also complained that minority students were disciplined differently than white students, that few minority students were in advanced-placement classes and that textbooks exclude or limit minority contributions.
Mr. Bond did not contact county school officials before taking the NAACP's complaints to the state superintendent.
"The NAACP's policy is to go to the top," he said.
Dorina Strickland, chairwoman of the Minority Affairs Committee, said, "I feel strongly that there should be a review of hiring and promotional policies."
Ms. Strickland, now a guidance counselor at Aberdeen Middle School, said she was the only black teacher at North Harford High School for 14 of the 18 years she taught at the predominately white school.
"It is very important that all students are exposed to minority teachers," she said.
"It is important because when they leave Harford County and go into the real world, they will not be exposed to just a quote-unquote white world, and may have to work with minorities."
Ms. Strickland said she enjoyed working at North Harford High School, though she said she did have some trouble with discipline with white male students.
"I felt sometimes that they did not see me as a person with authority, that they had less respect for me because of my color," she said.