Public forums held on schools' civil rights action plan


Six months after Anne Arundel County school officials and civil rights groups signed an agreement to eliminate disparities between black and white students in the school system, the first of a series of mandated community forums were held this week to discuss how the school system would comply with the accord.

Forums on Monday and Wednesday were billed as a presentation of "a finalized action plan" by the Anne Arundel County Public Schools Office of Civil Rights Advisory Committee, though the presentation offered few specifics and did not clearly explain what the "actions" will be.

"It was a call to action more than an action plan," said committee member John Wilson, who is the executive director of RESPECT, a coalition of black groups.

The presentation did include a history of the agreement and detailed statistics about achievement and disciplinary disparities between black and white students in the county.

The original federal discrimination complaint was filed in May 2004 against then-superintendent Eric J. Smith and the school board. A six-page agreement, mediated by the U.S. Department of Justice and signed in September, resolved the complaint.

Interim Superintendent Nancy M. Mann told those at the forum Wednesday that she had included several items in her budget to ensure compliance. Among those provisions is the creation of a school system Office of Civil Rights, an expansion of the International Baccalaureate program to Meade High School and sensitivity training for educators.

Committee members emphasized the importance of community involvement.

"The community was asked to think of ways in which they can be involved, whether through mentoring, adopting a school or adopting a community," Wilson said.

The committee, which meets monthly, will sit down again today to discuss community input from the forums, Wilson said.

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