At the Candidate Forum on June 3, my opponent, Ann Suthowski, was asked the question of how she would turn the Maryland Inclusive Schools Act into policy. Her response was “I have no idea what you are talking about, what inclusive school?” For a candidate who preaches how much time she spends each day reading Board and MABE materials, she missed this one. The update she missed can be found in the May 31 Legislative Session Summary under HB 850 (https://www.mabe.org/.../MABE-2022-Session-Summary-Report...) and in many news sources.
The Maryland Inclusive Schools Act “prohibits a local board of education, public prekindergarten programs and primary and secondary schools, and nonpublic prekindergarten programs and primary and secondary schools that receive State funds, from refusing enrollment of a prospective student, expelling a current student, withholding privileges from, or otherwise discriminating against any individual because of an individual’s race, ethnicity, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Further, the bill prohibits retaliatory actions against a student or parent or guardian of a student who files a complaint alleging specified discrimination. The bill establishes a complaint, mediation, and appeal process for violations. All or part of specified funding may be withheld from a board, program, or school that violates the nondiscrimination requirements.”
This law goes into effect July 1, 2022, and follows years of documented discrimination in schools around the state. For example, in 2020, the Baltimore Sun documented how Black students in Carroll County were subjected to harassment such as being called racial slurs and bullied. FreeState Justice reports “A majority of Maryland LGBTQ students report feeling unsafe in their schools (65%), regularly hearing anti-LGBTQ comments, and experiencing harassment or assault based on their identity (64%). Most never report incidents (54%), or do not know how to, and of those that do report, a minority (29%) report any intervention. Only 12.6% of students report knowing of non-discrimination and anti-bullying policies for their school.”
The Board of Education will need to review current policy and practices to ensure that Wicomico County does not discriminate or retaliate upon complaints of discrimination, and has a process in place for complaints, mediation, and appeals. To start the Board can updating its policy to change “The Wicomico County Board of Education (WCBOE) prohibits illegal discrimination based on…” to remove the word illegal. The Board should not discriminate, period.
Wednesday, I joined Salisbury PFLAG downtown for the Rainbow Flag Raising and Proclamation of Pride Month. It is important for us all to recognize the discrimination that is occurring and fight against it. As Mark DeLancey said, we all should “love the community, love themselves, and even love those who show the community hate.”