The Baltimore County Police Department will provide additional security at Tuesday’s county school board meeting after what the board’s chairwoman described as social media activities that constitute “bullying, intimidation, racism and a safety risk” to herself and several board members.
Chairwoman Makeda Scott did not detail the social media activities that had caused concern, but said in a statement that she has asked law enforcement to look into the matter and conduct a threat assessment.
“I will no longer ignore or tolerate it,” Scott said in the statement.
She did not respond to requests for further comment.
In the meantime, Baltimore County police will provide additional security at Tuesday’s school board meeting in response to recent safety concerns, police spokeswoman Joy Stewart said in an email.
County officials received the request last week for additional law enforcement resources in response to “potential concerns,” according to Sean Naron, a spokesman for county executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.
Both Stewart and Naron referred further questions about the nature of the concerns to the school board.
The school system — and by extension the 12-member board that oversees it — has been criticized frequently, but especially so during the coronavirus pandemic that closed schools for nearly a year. Critics have complained the district was reopening too slowly. Others, particularly teachers, said the district was reopening without fully meeting safety precautions. And the district’s responses to a series of technology issues, starting with a ransomware attack last November, have drawn complaints from the county executive and council members, staff and the public.
During many public comment portions of school board meetings, community members have criticized the board’s behavior and implored members to set aside differences for the good of the 111,000 children within the school system.
In addition, longstanding disagreements over district priorities propelled by Baltimore County’s changing demographics and politics continue to cause friction among board members.
The board itself has become deeply divided and struggled with a number of high-profile decisions since transitioning to a hybrid model in 2018, with seven elected and four appointed members, along with one student member. Before the change, school board members were appointed by the governor, often based on the recommendations of the county executive.
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Some of that division is documented in a video that has been making the rounds this week on social media. It was posted to YouTube Tuesday by the Baltimore County Parent and Student Coalition, formerly called Reopen Baltimore County Public Schools. The organization has held protests and used a variety of tactics to press the board to expedite students’ return to in-person learning after the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered school buildings for nearly a year.
Coalition representatives did not return messages requesting comment.
The video features several clips from public school board meetings held in recent months, some of which predate Scott’s election as chairwoman in December. In the compilation, board members repeatedly speak over one another and other times use profane language while off-screen during the online meetings.
In her statement, Scott said the footage left her “dismayed and angered,” and lacked context in several instances
Maryland’s Inspector General for Education Richard Henry said his office has received numerous complaints in recent months regarding an “unprofessional atmosphere or unprofessional behavior” among board members. Some complaints alleged that board members were deleting comments on social media that were critical of them.
Henry sent Scott letters in January and March recommending that the board review its policies, particularly when it came to maintaining social media pages.
Baltimore Sun reporters Taylor DeVille and Liz Bowie contributed to this article.