Hate mail from Mayo

Arundel: Threat against school superintendent is serious, like the atmosphere that inspired it.

March 29, 2000

MAYO has a problem. Some community residents have sewn race into a discussion where it doesn't belong.

The fruits of their labor came last week in a racially tinged death threat sent to Anne Arundel Schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham.

The threatening letter objected to Dr. Parham's plan to temporarily transfer white children from Mayo Elementary School to an empty wing of majority-black Annapolis Middle while a new building is built for Mayo. The letter to Dr. Parham, who is African-American, was laced with profanity and racial epithets.

The hateful threat is a felony that demands a strong response from law enforcement officials. That is happening.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched a probe into the matter, which also is being investigated by the Anne Arundel County police. "Civil rights cases are given top priority throughout the bureau," said Special Agent Peter A. Gulotta Jr., an FBI spokesman.

Scores of Mayo residents objected to the transfers in a responsible way.

They argued that the move would extend travel time, a reasonable argument, although the school system has shifted children from distant locations to Annapolis Middle four previous times without problems.

But a segment of Mayo was very irresponsible. Some uttered ugly, racially tainted thoughts behind the scenes. Parents fumed, anonymously, about the prospect of their children being sent to a mostly black school. Their remarks smoldered with hatred. Flames were fanned.

Since the threat, Mayo groups have offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the letter's sender. Additional offers have raised the reward to more than $20,000.

Catching the offender is of paramount importance. But even after an arrest is made, the Mayo community will have to address the atmosphere that produced something so hateful.

Responsible citizens of Mayo must help make things right.

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