2 church groups support principal They don't want her disciplined for mass suspension

November 24, 1997|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

Two Maryland church groups were to speak out today in defense of Northern High School Principal Alice Morgan Brown and her efforts to bring discipline to her troubled Baltimore school.

The Rev. John L. Wright, president of the United Baptist Missionary Convention, said his churches would protest any move by the city school board to discipline her for her suspension Wednesday of 1,200 Northern students.

"The school is responsible for providing a learning environment. It should not take 90 percent of its time for discipline. That is the responsibility of parents. Mrs. Brown understands that struggle. She is trying to do something for the students, and if we don't watch it, the system will hang her high and dry," Wright said.

Wright and leaders of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance were scheduled to speak this morning in support of Brown, who made national news last week when she suspended two-thirds of her students when they refused her orders to return to their homerooms to pick up their report cards.

Some students and parents angrily protested the suspensions, which Brown later rescinded.

Robert Schiller, the school system's chief executive officer, said last night he has long supported Brown's strategies for bringing more discipline to Northern High School. But the suspensions did not follow school procedures, which among other things require a conference with the student before a suspension, he said.

"My concern has been, and continues to be that the communication channels for this kind of an action were not activated, so that either I or other folks could have been alerted to, and understood, what was taking place," Schiller said.

He said had Brown kept her area superintendent and his office informed as tensions in the school rose in the week before the suspensions, the consultations might have led to actions to head off the crisis.

"Students who were disobedient are going to be fully punished," Schiller said. "As long as there is proper documentation and procedures are followed, this board will always uphold an action to make sure the schools are not plagued by disobedient individuals."

Schiller said his refusal last week to comment when asked whether Brown's job was on the line has been misinterpreted.

"I will never comment on personnel matters in public," he said. "It would be very unprofessional of me to talk about any personnel matter before I knew of any details, and until the matter was resolved at the board level."

But in general, "one incident does not make for a decision about someone," Schiller said. Such things are decided in the context of routine job performance evaluations, he said.

In the meantime, he said, "We're going to sit down and talk about how this [incident] emerged, and what steps have to be taken to ensure these things don't happen. This doesn't help the system in any way when something like this occurs."

Wright praised Brown's "leadership and courage."

"We have to show a force of energy, of absolute power to protect her, to support her, to be there as a joint effort to keep Mrs. Brown as principal of the school," he said.

It was discipline that allowed African-Americans to survive centuries of slavery and oppression, Wright said. It is the failure of some parents to instill that discipline in their children that has led to trouble and student failures in many schools, Wright said.

"The sad commentary is that it seems like the disruptive person gets more attention than the people who want to do well. We need to be in alignment with" [Mrs. Brown], he said.

Pub Date: 11/24/97

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