County Council candidate was within his rights to wear campaign button to meeting

EDUCATION NOTEBOOK

June 18, 2006|By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV

Tony Salazar, County Council candidate, who was asked to remove a campaign button during a Board of Education hearing in January, was surprised to learn this week that he, indeed, had the right to wear campaign paraphernalia during board functions.

Salazar, a Republican candidate in District 1, covering Elkridge and Ellicott City, was awaiting an answer to whether it was legal to make him remove the campaign button from his lapel. He said school system officials never notified him of their findings.

"I'm glad they changed their policy, but the way they handled it was poor from a personal and professional standpoint," he said, after being informed of the decision by The Sun. "You have the right to identify yourself as a candidate in a public hearing."

Joshua Kaufman, chairman of the school board, said he was under the impression that Salazar was aware he could wear campaign buttons.

"I'm sorry that Mr. Salazar was still feeling like he was still being affected by this because he wasn't," Kaufman said.

Kaufman said that after Salazar inquired about the button, Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin had the issue researched and discovered that Salazar was correct.

"We discovered that it was a free-speech issue," Kaufman said. "It's been the procedure of the school system through the last two superintendents. Mr. Salazar was the first person to object to that."

Courtney Watson, a member of the board who is running against Salazar for the County Council seat, said she also thought the situation had been resolved.

"I do know that when I was running for office in 2002, a school system employee asked me [to remove my button], and I complied," she said. "He obviously is not the only one in the past to be asked by the school system. That is all I can say."

Salazar said it was Watson who informed a system employee about his button, which resulted in him having to remove it.

Watson denied Salazar's claim.

"I don't recall it that way," she said.

McFadden honored

Tatyana McFadden, the wheelchair athlete who won an order in April giving her the right to compete in a track meet with other high school athletes - and was disqualified from a state track meet for racing just ahead of another athlete and encouraging her along - was honored this week by a national nonprofit advocacy group for people with disabilities.

The National Disability Rights Network, based in Washington, held its annual conference Wednesday in Alexandria, Va., and presented the 17-year-old Atholton High School rising junior with the Training and Advocacy Support Center Advocacy Award.

The award was given to McFadden in "recognition of exceptional courage and perseverance in overcoming barriers to full inclusion," said Kaaryn Sanon, communications manager for the National Disability Rights Network.

McFadden said she was honored to receive the award.

"It was for the case and how I made a difference," she said. "I felt very honored that all that I was fighting for made a difference."

It will be a busy summer for McFadden, who will travel to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for a basketball camp; to Atlanta for U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Championships; and Switzerland for the Swiss Championships, which will be preparation for the International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships in the Netherlands.

"I know it is going to be very hard, but I hope I make it," McFadden said about the World Championships.

Last month, McFadden was featured on ESPN's Outside the Lines, a half-hour show dedicated to sports-related topics.

However, it hasn't been all accolades for McFadden this year.

At the state championship meet May 27 at Morgan State University, McFadden was ruled to have been "pacing" teammate Alison Smith in the 1,600 meters, and both competitors were disqualified. The disqualification cost Atholton High the Class 2A state championship.

McFadden's mother, Deborah, said her family has tried to put the pacing incident behind them.

"We don't think she violated anything," Deborah McFadden said. "Nevertheless, we have to abide by the rules of the meet. So we are not suing them [the state] for pacing."

Board candidate

Dr. Janet Siddiqui, 45, a pediatrician, has announced that she will pursue a seat on the Board of Education.

Siddiqui, a mother of three Howard County students, said she will use her medical background to her advantage.

"I feel that the Board of Education needs to be well-rounded with people from different disciplines," she said. "There are some health care issues that need to be addressed: physical health, and emotional health."

Siddiqui said she will focus on nutrition, physical fitness, drug- and alcohol-abuse prevention, Internet safety, peer relationships and learning behaviors.

Siddiqui, who has lived in Howard County for 20 years with her husband, Nayab, has been a member of the PTA, the HCPSS Anti-Bullying Task Force, the Community Advisory Council and was appointed by the governor last October to the Patuxent River Commission.

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