Reversal fit for a King

Holiday: Carroll school board realized the hurt of calendar vote and moved promptly to heal it.

February 19, 1999

THE CARROLL County Board of Education should be commended, not for its original vote this month to rescind Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a school holiday, but for acting quickly to reverse itself.

The board could have dug in its heels, claiming that others "misinterpreted" the decision. Instead of calling an emergency session, it could have delayed corrective action for weeks, allowing bad feelings to fester.

The board's quick reversal stands in refreshing contrast to recent mistakes made by other governing bodies. Among the most memorable: The initial refusal by members of the previous Carroll board of commissioners to rescind the huge raise they had granted themselves. Or D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams' delayed decision to rehire a staffer whose resignation was hastily -- and wrongly -- accepted after a misunderstanding over his perfectly proper use of the word "niggardly" to describe stingy behavior.

One Carroll board member who does warrant rebuke is Joseph D. Mish, whose subsequent, bigoted comments compounded the King Day mistake. Mr. Mish needs to learn to stop digging when he finds himself in a hole.

The board didn't succumb to "political correctness," as he and others suggested. Rather, it offered a lesson its students should hear: If you make a bad decision, correct it. If you hurt someone, apologize.

The board's initial vote, which would have made Carroll schools the only ones in Maryland open on King Day and Washington's birthday, was not born of mean spirit. The board was trying to squeeze more planning time for teachers into its calendar, while "creating" a way for students to learn more about national heroes. Its intent was not to dishonor Dr. King.

But the board's action did offend people of all colors. To its credit, the board recognized that. That's a step closer to the world Dr. King dreamed about.

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