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‘We are broken’: Baltimore County student representative admonishes school board for incivility

A 17-year-old student seated on Baltimore County’s school board chastised his adult counterparts this week for failing to confront what he described as deep division and incivility within the governing body.

Christian Thomas, a rising senior at Eastern Technical High School, delivered the critique Tuesday during his first public school board meeting, stating he was “ashamed” the board had allowed conflict to fester.

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“Over the past few months as I’ve been preparing to join you all on the board, I’ve been watching,” Thomas said. “I’ve watched every full business meeting and work session, most committee meetings, and have talked with each of you. And the only word to sum up my understanding of this board is that we are broken.”

The 12-person board has tussled over several high-profile decisions since transitioning to a hybrid model in 2018, with seven elected and four appointed members, and one student member.

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Those tensions appeared more pronounced this year as the board struggled to find consensus on major decisions including the reopening of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic and the recovery from a devastating ransomware attack in November.

At left, Christian Thomas, 17, signs his official government paperwork to take his seat as student member of the board for Baltimore County Public Schools.
At left, Christian Thomas, 17, signs his official government paperwork to take his seat as student member of the board for Baltimore County Public Schools. (Susan Diaz)

The conflict attracted the attention of the Maryland Inspector General for Education, who received numerous complaints in recent months regarding an alleged “unprofessional atmosphere or unprofessional behavior.”

And community members have implored the board repeatedly to set aside their differences for the good of the school system’s 111,000 students.

“The divide that exists on this board is so apparent, and most of you are not doing anything to fix it,” he said.

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The teen described himself as an “optimist” who was confident that more listening and empathy can help repair relationships on the board and refocus attention onto students. Thomas’s remarks were met with applause from many fellow board members.

“Well said, Christian,” said board chairwoman Makeda Scott. “We’re looking forward to you doing great things with us.”

Baltimore County students annually elect a senior to the school board to vote on select matters and represent them in board discussions.

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