A Tragedy In Howard SchoolsA human tragedy has struck the...


June 27, 1993

A Tragedy In Howard Schools

A human tragedy has struck the Howard County school system. Commencing on June 7, the superintendent ordered his school directors to take actions that have undermined the school system's human relations initiative and spread a blanket of authoritarianism over many of our schools.

Without warning, the directors entered our schools and summoned specific teachers and support personnel from their classes. In one case, the teacher was summoned from a parent conference. When the unsuspecting employee arrived, he/she was then handled a letter stating that he/she was being transferred. One cold, insensitive reason was stated in the superintendent's short letter: "For the needs of the system." The directors had been ordered to deliver the superintendent's order and leave. They were not to answer any questions. The upset, bewildered teachers were then expected to return to class as if ** nothing had occurred.

According to many of these teachers, they believe they were targeted because they had, at one time or another, expressed opinions or concerns about such issues as: academic standards, discipline in the schools, educational philosophy and/or other academic matters. As a result of the actions of the superintendent, many teachers now believe the continuation of free speech andexpression -- absolutely necessary in an academic setting -- among teachers, administrators and the Central Office will be impossible. Teachers have reported to me that the superintendent's actions have already caused the following atmosphere to evolve in many of our schools: widespread fear; distrust and anger; bitterness toward the school system; a belief that the superintendent's human relations goal is a charade.

The school system's human relations goal is "to improve school and school system climate with regard to interpersonal and intergroup sensitivity, understanding and communication." The superintendent's actions have produced the opposite results. His actions have created a climate of fear and instability in our schools which is not a good educational atmosphere for children or teachers. . . .

The superintendent is employed by the elected school board and his contract expires in 1996. Until then, parents and educators need to communicate with all of the school board members and urge them to take whatever steps are necessary to get control of this deteriorating situation.

James R. Swab

Ellicott City

The writer is president of the Howard County Education Association.

The Smoking Ban: Ecker's Veto And Other Reactions

Council Bill No. 28, which was passed by the County Council 4-1 on June 7, is designed to reduce the health hazards of secondary smoke. I agree with this objective and realize the health hazards of not only smoking, but also secondary smoke.

However, there are a number of concerns about Bill No. 28. In my opinion, the existing smoking law is adequate to protect the residents of Howard County. Bill No. 28 repeals and re-enacts the current law and the main thrust of the new bill is to outlaw all smoking in some restaurants in 1996. Some of my concerns are:

* 1.) The negative effect the bill, if enacted, may have on restaurant businesses in Howard County. Some claim that restaurants will see an increase in business because smoking is prohibited. If a restaurant owner thought that business would increase because of a ban on smoking, the restaurant owner would have banned smoking long ago.

A report on the economic impacts of smoking bans in California indicate that there was a 25 percent decline in the daily customer volume in over 100 restaurants surveyed. Beverly Hills experienced a loss in restaurant business and its smoking ban was repealed 4 1/2 months after it was implemented.

* 2.) The effect Council Bill No. 28 may have on economic development, tourism and conferences. There are a number of companies within Howard County and a number outside the county that schedule training sessions, conferences, etc., in Howard County. Because of a ban on smoking in restaurants, these conferences may not be held in Howard County.

* 3.) As the person ultimately responsible for administering the ban on smoking, I am concerned about the expectations for enforcement. I realize the Police Department would be responsible for enforcement. What is the expectation of the council, the community, business owners, etc., of how Council Bill No. 28 will be enforced? . . .

* 4.) The employment amendment added on the night the bill was passed would make it illegal for an employer to discharge or refuse to hire a person who smokes during non-working hours. The amendment was produced at the last minute and was not adequately publicized before it was included in the bill.

. . . The provision is far broader and more intrusive into the private sector than even the local Howard County Human Rights law, which applies only to an employer who has five or more full-time employees. . . .

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