Reconsideration of teacher firing sought

Parents, children, others support Lockwood

May 02, 2000|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Supporters of Kristine Lockwood are calling for school board members to reconsider their decision to fire the former Glenwood Middle School teacher.

At a news conference yesterday, about 30 middle school children, their parents and several community members gathered to show support for the woman pupils called their favorite English teacher. Lockwood was suddenly reassigned Friday.

Representatives of the African American Coalition of Howard County and the Howard County NAACP Youth Council also were at the news conference at Circle D Farm in Glenwood.

"We propose all the parties come back to the table at a neutral location," said former school board candidate Michele Williams. "We have a teacher here with a groundswell of support. Trust has to be re-established all around. This can be worked out."

School board members voted Thursday to not renew Lockwood's contract for next year because Glenwood Principal Dan Michaels said he found Lockwood did not plan properly and was often unprepared for class. On Friday, Lockwood said Michaels and an assistant principal asked her to remove her possessions from the school because she was being reassigned.

Schoolchildren have been zealous in their support for Lockwood -- calling her a good teacher and a friend -- speaking out at last week's school board meeting, staging sit-ins, wearing black to school and distributing "We Love Mrs. Lockwood" fliers.

"In order to restore respect and a nurturing environment at Glenwood, Kristine Lockwood's contract should be renewed and she should be reinstated in her class," said parent Barry Tevelow, who was arrested on trespassing charges Friday after he assisted pupils during one of the sit-ins.

Tevelow said he fears retaliation because of his vocal support for Lockwood.

Some schoolchildren at the news conference told reporters that they have been singled out by teachers and administrators since the vote to cancel Lockwood's contract.

"Students were treated very bad Monday, and they were treated very horribly on Friday, and it keeps getting worse and worse," said seventh-grader Regina Atwood, who had painted black tears on her face with eyeliner pencil.

Seventh-grader Tony Lanuza said the atmosphere at Glenwood is "like a prison" since Lockwood's nonrenewal and reassignment. Tony said he was sent to the office last week because he had fliers supporting Lockwood.

"I'm not a bad kid," Tony said. "I've never been to the office before. I was petrified."

He said his fliers were confiscated.

Seventh-grader Robbie Black said pupils have handed out fliers many times before, including as recently as last month to raise money for a classmate whose father died.

"Now we bring in fliers to help our very own teacher -- she's like our favorite teacher in the school -- and they threaten us with suspension or send us to the principal's office," Robbie said. "It doesn't seem fair. They just won't listen to us."

Hammond High School junior Erica McLaughlin, president of the Howard County NAACP Youth Council, and three other representatives of the group said they appeared at the news conference to support the children who claim they are being retaliated against for speaking out on Lockwood's behalf.

"We feel like anybody whose rights have been violated -- it doesn't have to be a black person -- should be supported," Erica said. "We just want the students' voice to be heard."

Lockwood commended her pupils for using peaceful ways to express themselves and said she was disappointed that administrators and board members refused to listen.

She also called for "the county to investigate allegations that school staff used force when removing students from the [sit-ins] on Friday."

Lockwood said she is considering hiring an attorney to look into her dismissal. She has maintained that her nonrenewal is based on her outspokenness about problems in the school system and her unsuccessful reform campaign for the school board.

"If her termination isn't connected to her speaking out," said Ken Jennings, vice president for operations of the African American Coalition of Howard County, "we've got a bridge in Brooklyn that we're willing to sell."

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