After controversy last year, no photo on school calendar

September 18, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

Following a racial controversy over the cover photo of last year's school calendar, the cover of this year's Howard County ++ school system calendar bears words and numbers only.

In a turquoise, gold and white design, it reads: "1997 & 1998: Calendar Handbook for the Howard County Public School System."

Patti Caplan, a school spokeswoman, said the change had nothing to do with last year's controversy, explaining that because school officials wanted the cover to bear a multicolored graphic, the calendars had to be printed in February -- a deadline that did not permit time to arrange a photograph.

"Some people might say it's avoidance, but that would not be the case," Caplan said.

The covers of about 43,000 calendars last year pictured white students prominently in the foreground and African-American and Asian students in the background. The covers were replaced last fall after complaints that the image was racially insensitive.

The photo was "an unacceptable representation of the school system's beliefs and diversity," Schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said last year.

At the time, most school board members supported the decision to remove the covers but questioned the cost and time it was going to take to replace it.

A local company printed new covers for free and volunteers replaced them, said Sandra H. French, school board chairwoman. The cost to the school system was a few thousand dollars, she said.

"I think 95 percent of our calendars have not had photos," French said. "It's usually been student art, I believe, so I didn't think anything about it [this year's cover design]. But, I like it. It gives the year -- it's functional."

Said Caplan of last year's controversy: "I really think in some ways it was a good experience. I wouldn't want to repeat it, but there was a lot of dialogue in the community as a result of it -- very positive dialogue about the growing diversity and the need for sensitivity."

Pub Date: 9/18/97

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