Bigotry at Southern High

Racial acts: School system must do a much better job of preventing racist behavior by students.

May 19, 2000

WHEN a bigot made racist threats against Anne Arundel County schools superintendent Carol S. Parham, some members of the Mayo community blamed a local newspaper that had previously printed bigoted sentiments.

The contention, essentially, was this: Ignore racism, and it will go away.

This week, Sun reporter TaNoah Morgan reported that black parents met to express concern about a series of racist incidents at Southern High School.

The response from Principal Cliff Prince, an African American, was, "I don't think more media attention is going to bring this to a close." Sounds like: Ignore racism, and it will go away.

Good thing Martin Luther King Jr. didn't share that view. He believed racism could be conquered only if confronted. He welcomed the television cameras showing Bull Connor turning fire hoses on demonstrators in Alabama because he believed racial acts must be exposed. Shine a light on bigotry and perhaps it will disappear like a vampire.

Bigotry exists at Southern High. That's obvious when a white teenager dares to take center stage during "Multicultural Day" and sing a ditty about lynching. Or when another white teen leaves a nickel on the cafeteria table for black employees with the note: "A tip for the slaves." Or when "KKK" is scrawled on lockers.

The entire Southern High population should not be tarred by these hateful acts, but the majority should correct their misguided classmates at every ugly turn.

The school system's code of conduct discourages racial acts and statements. An undisclosed number of students have been sent to mediation or suspended for breaking the code. But the series of incidents at Southern High makes it clear the message isn't getting through.

Schools officials must demonstrate zero-tolerance for bigotry. Whenever racism rears its head, others must expose it so good souls can drive it out of existence.

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