Teachers union gathers evidence to support NAACP bias charges

September 20, 1992|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

Allegations of discrimination in Harford County's school system took a new turn last week when the teachers union announced that it is compiling evidence that would substantiate some of the bias charges leveled by the NAACP earlier this summer.

Jean Thomas, president of the Harford County Education Association, said the union may write a letter to state school officials that would back up some charges of discriminatory practices in the school system.

The controversy began in late May when Joseph Bond, president of the county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, sent a letter to state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick that listed 22 complaints against the school system, including charges that it "blackballed" minorities to limit promotions.

Ray R. Keech, superintendent of the school system, has vigorously denied the discrimination charges. He refuted each allegation in a lengthy document which was presented to the local chapter of the NAACP in August. NAACP officials are expected to respond to the report at its regular monthly meeting Thursday night.

"The NAACP has made the decision to meet with me on a regular basis to discuss their concerns," Mr. Keech said at the school board's work-study meeting on Monday.

He also said he had met with the minority affairs committee of the teachers union to discuss the concerns. Mr. Keech also said that he would meet with the Ministerial Alliance, a group of minority religious leaders, this week to discuss the matter.

Both groups were named in the NAACP's complaint to the school board, but the minority affairs committee said it had never agreed to be included in the letter.

Dorina Strickland, chairperson of the minority affairs committee, said that the group never gave its permission to be included in the letter. She felt some of the NAACP's charges were groundless.

"I had some concerns about the way some things were worded," she said. "I don't have evidence of some of those complaints, and I can't say one way or another what is true and what is not. However, I think the consensus is that some of the points are valid," she said. For example, she said many teachers, black and white, believe that unless they are part of the "good ol' boy network" they will not get promoted.

Ms. Thomas, the union president, said she was also upset that the minority affairs committee of the union had been named in the NAACP letter without first getting the union's consent.

"There is a process for handling these kinds of complaints. . . . The NAACP should have met with us," she declared.

School officials including board members Percy Williams and George Lisby, who are both NAACP members, have also criticized the local NAACP group for not contacting local school officials before writing the state school superintendent.

"If we do write a letter to the state superintendent . . . it will be [after] talking to everyone first. But we do believe some claims the NAACP made are definitely valid," Ms. Thomas said.

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