NAACP to meet with Keech on schools' denial of bias allegations

September 27, 1992|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

The Harford chapter of the NAACP has decided to meet with the school superintendent before commenting publicly on the school system's rebuttal of allegations of discrimination in hiring and promotion.

"The executive committee met and we've decided to seek an additional meeting with [school superintendent Ray R. Keech] to discuss our concerns," said Italy Overton, speaking after the local chapter's regular monthly meeting Thursday night. Mr. Overton was the only member of the executive committee to attend the meeting of 15 people.

In August, Mr. Keech presented a detailed, 12-page report which vigorously refuted the NAACP's charges that the school system discriminates against minorities.

At that time, NAACP officials said they wanted to study the document and would comment on it at the September meeting. However, because of the planned meeting with the superintendent, it will be at least October before the group is ready.

Mr. Overton, who did not discuss the school system's response during the meeting, said he was pleased that the teachers union had decided to investigate some of the charges the NACCP had made against the system.

"We think it is a good idea that the union is looking out for its teachers," he said.

Jean Thomas, president of the Harford County Education Association, said last week that the teachers union was compiling evidence that would substantiate some of the bias charges leveled by the NAACP.

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 asking her to investigate alleged discrimination.

The letter, which listed 22 complaints against the school system, included charges that it "blackballed" minorities to limit promotions.

In a letter to Mr. Bond, the state superintendent said she had discussed the matter with Mr. Keech as well as school board vice president Percy Williams and school board member George Lisby. Mr. Williams and Mr. Lisby, who are NAACP members, have said repeatedly that the school system does not discriminate.

"I was impressed with the information they shared, including the procedures in place in the Harford County Public School System for the hiring and promotion of women and minorities [and] the number of women and minorities being hired and promoted in the system," said the letter from Ms. Grasmick, dated July 31.

In the letter, Ms. Grasmick said she was "very surprised" the local NAACP chapter had not first contacted Mr. Keech or the Harford County Board of Education before alleging discriminatory practices.

"If you are not satisfied with the results of your discussions with them, you may then pursue the matter formally with the Maryland Commission on Human Relations and the United States Office of Civil Rights," the letter said.

Ms. Thomas and others, including members of the local NAACP chapter, have also criticized Mr. Bond for writing the state superintendent before taking up the matter with the local school board.

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