Wilson defends letter to school board that outlined objections to sex-ed play

January 03, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Harford County Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson declared himself a man much-maligned last week after an editorial in The Sun chastised him for a letter he wrote urging the school board to stop allowing performances of a controversial sex-education play.

"Since The Sun saw fit to begin the year by calling me 'a demagogue' and 'The Pied Piper of Bel Air,' I was not surprised that it concluded the year by accusing me of 'blackmail,' " wrote Mr. Wilson in a Dec. 28 letter to the editor.

"I wear The Sun's epithets as a soldier wears medals," he wrote.

Mr. Wilson denied trying to blackmail the Board of Education into compliance by threatening to withhold public funding.

"The idea of 'threatened sanctions' is bogus. I do not have the ability to threaten sanction. I am careful only to wield the sword actually in my scabbard," Mr. Wilson wrote to the editor.

But in his Dec. 10 letter to school board President Anne Sterling, Mr. Wilson said:

"I regret the necessity of reminding the Board of Education that the Board is, in a large part, dependent upon the County Council as its funding entity . . . It would be regrettable if the Board's insensitivity to large parts of our county's community would have an adverse affect on the public support for education during the coming budget cycles."

Many council members were offended by that letter, saying it sounded as though Mr. Wilson was threatening the school board, and was speaking for a majority on the council.

Mr. Wilson has since followed the suggestion of Councilwoman Theresa M. Pierno, D-District C, and ordered individualized stationery.

In his letter, Mr. Wilson wrote: "The Sun avers to my use of council letterhead. Up until now it was the only official letterhead any of the seven council members had to use. Some of us will be abandoning this economy in the near future for the sake of clarity. I have not used that letterhead any differently than my colleagues or our predecessors."

The Sun highlighted the controversy in a Dec. 21 editorial, saying Mr. Wilson "warned that the council could cut school funds if the board allowed further performances," of the AIDS and sex-education play called "Secrets."

The play is shown to 11th- and 12th-grade students whose parents have signed a permission slip. Parents have an opportunity to view a videotape before deciding whether to allow their children to see the play.

But Mr. Wilson maintains he never intended to appear as though he was threatening school funding.

"The . . . sentence reminds the Board that if they undermine public support for public education, they make my job (and that of my colleagues on the council) much more difficult as we attempt to fund the many needs of education," Mr. Wilson wrote in his Dec. 28 letter.

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