Arundel official gets death threat

Racial epithets aimed at Parham in letter opposing busing plan

March 25, 2000|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

A decision to bus elementary pupils from southern Anne Arundel County to Annapolis has brought a racially motivated death threat to the county school superintendent, authorities said yesterday.

County police, who learned of the letter Tuesday, said they are providing protection for Superintendent Carol S. Parham and investigating the threat made in a letter to her.

"The Anne Arundel County Police Department has taken this threat against Dr. Parham very seriously," county police chief P. Thomas Shanahan said last night.

The threat was related to her decision to bus pupils from Mayo Elementary School to Annapolis Middle School for two years during construction of their new school, police said.

Announced a month ago, the plan has drawn intense criticism from Mayo parents,-- mainly over the bus travel time between the two schools. But a small number of plan opponents have made negative comments about the racial makeup of Annapolis Middle School, which has a large minority population.

"We're looking at this two ways, as a death threat and a hate crime," said Lt. Jeffrey A. Kelly, a county police spokesman. "The [police] chief has assigned sufficient officers to work the case and take the actions necessary to be reasonably assured of Dr. Parham's safety," he said.

Parham, who is black, contacted police after receiving the typed letter. Shanahan said the note contains many racial epithets and a specific death threat.

"We have some very experienced hate crime investigators assigned to this, and they are developing the case," Kelly said.

Parham's plan to temporarily shift Mayo pupils at Annapolis Middle has been met with widespread criticism in the small peninsula community south of the state capital. Parents say their main objection is the 45-minute bus ride each way in rush-hour traffic.

Mayo parents have appealed Parham's decision to the school board and hired a lawyer to represent them.

Robin Greulich, one of the Mayo parents heading a committee to overturn Parham's decision, expressed shock when told about the death threat.

"I cannot even imagine who could have done that; we're sick about it," she said. "This is not a racial issue and it should not be a racial issue."

"This is not something my committee would support or condone," Greulich said. "We're appalled by the whole thing."

"That is not what this committee's about; we do not want to represent that kind of thought," said Kerrie Flaherty, another committee member.

"Unfortunately, as committee members, we can't control what everybody does."

Flaherty said she might reconsider her participation in the effort to reverse the busing decision.

"This makes me wonder whether I want to be a part of this anymore," she said.

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