The birds, the bees and bigotry Parental guidance needed to teach young children about racist symbols.

February 12, 1997

SCHOOL MAINTENANCE workers deserve credit for laboring over the weekend to remove spray-painted hate messages from two high schools in Howard County. Their sandblasting erased racist and anti-Semitic symbols from Mount Hebron High and Worthington Elementary before students arrived for class Monday morning with their young, impressionable eyes.

But only the greatest optimist would believe that maintenance workers can put away their sandblasting equipment for good. Through hate or mindlessness -- or some of both -- miscreants appear determined to spread their primitive messages to the public, judging from a rash of obnoxious graffiti in the county recently. Even worse, the outbreak appears aimed at the minds of students.

The maintenance staff prevented these messages from reaching their target audience, but who can be certain that students will be protected from the signs and language of hatred next time? Without such a guarantee, it becomes important to place adequate emphasis on ensuring that students view such despicable acts in the proper light.

Many parents already work hard to screen television programs, books, music and movies to shield their children from messages they consider unsuitable. But material they view as inappropriate still can seep through in television promos for a "Jerry Springer" or "Jenny Jones" episode or some other titillating program. It is just about impossible to censor all disturbing messages from the various media.

That brings more pressure on parents to discuss with their children, in advance, those messages they cannot block. This is not a new task. A key job of parenthood is to have important conversations about sex, drugs and other subjects that moms and dads prefer children learn about at home, with their guidance.

It is becoming apparent that conversations about racism and anti-Semitism should be thrown into the mix. Parental guidance should come before a child sees a swastika or a racial epithet splashed on a school building.

Kids then can approach these symbols with the same type of wisdom they need before someone offers them drugs. Guidance helps reduce hate symbols to the ignorant acts they are.

Pub Date: 2/12/97

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