Dismissed instructor holds protest in park

Parents upset over alleged harassment of pupil supporters

Backers of firing speak up

May 09, 2000|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

In another unusual display of activism in quiet western Howard County, parents and schoolchildren walked along Route 97 yesterday morning, carrying colorful posters in support of a former Glenwood Middle School teacher and in opposition to the principal who recommended her dismissal.

About 16 people participated in the three-hour demonstration at Glenwood Park.

The protesters want seventh-grade language arts teacher Kristine Lockwood reinstated to her teaching duties and her contract renewed for next year. They also said they want Glenwood pupils to be able to speak about her in school without being censored.

Parent protesters said they want Superintendent Michael E. Hickey to temporarily reassign Principal Dan Michaels until an outside party can investigate the children's allegations of harassment and Lockwood's firing.

Protesters carried signs with messages such as: "Michaels Must Go," "Stop Student Retaliation," "We Love Mrs. Lockwood," "Keep Kristine" and "Treat the Students with Respect."

Cars slowed along the busy road, and drivers honked their horns, waved or gave the thumbs-up sign to the group.

Lockwood carried a sign that read "Don't Test Paint Around Kids" because she said she wants people to remember that her troubles with the school system began before she ran for school board last fall.

"I started whistle-blowing back in the spring when they started testing paint in my classroom," Lockwood said. "We're out here today because teachers must be able to stand up for students without retaliation -- and for other students' rights issues."

Many parents who participated in the protest said they are angry because their children have said they are being singled out and intimidated by teachers and administrators because they participated in earlier protests.

Some parents who have been quietly supportive of Michaels' decision spoke out yesterday.

"The thing with them trying to get rid of Mr. Michaels, that's really got a lot of people upset," said Joel Isaacs, parent of an eighth-grader who had Lockwood as a teacher last year. "He is one of the best principals Glenwood has ever had. He's fair and he's smart."

Isaacs said that many parents think Lockwood is a "nice person," but "ineffective" as a teacher. He and other parents haven't spoken out in support of Michaels and the school board before, he said, because they didn't want to add salt to Lockwood's wounds.

"It's a sensitive issue, and you don't want to pile on," he said, "but a lot of people are saying `Hats off to them for standing up and doing the right thing.' Too many times, too many teachers are ineffective and the principal doesn't do anything."

Lockwood has not been in class since April 28, the day after a tempestuous school board meeting in which her contract was not renewed.

Parents and middle school children temporarily disrupted that meeting, speaking out on Lockwood's behalf, and -- unable to bring about a reversal of the board's decision -- left angry.

The situation sparked several protests, including sit-ins at Glenwood Middle School.

Citing personnel confidentiality, Michaels, Hickey and board members will not say why Lockwood's contract wasn't renewed.

Lockwood alleges it is in retaliation for comments she made about the district during an unsuccessful run for school board. She also said she has been a thorn in Michaels' side since she complained about paint being tested in her classroom this year.

Records Lockwood released to the news media, however, show Michaels found her to be often unprepared for class and a poor planner.

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