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'Hang them high': Baltimore County delegate draws fire for Facebook comment aimed at school officials

A state delegate from Baltimore County is drawing criticism for a Facebook comment aimed at county school officials — with a fellow delegate saying it evoked lynchings and the interim school superintendent calling it “hateful.”

Del. Robin Grammer, a Republican, made the comment in a Facebook group called BCPS Parents & Teachers for Equitable Facilities & Portable AC, responding to a post there Friday by Michael Darenberg, a member of the Baltimore County School Board Nominating Commission.

Darenberg suggested that remaining members of disgraced Baltimore County Schools CEO Dallas Dance’s leadership team should resign, saying: “If you do, we stop digging up dirt on you and you can move to another school system and take advantage of them.”

“No deal,” Grammer replied. “Hang them high and leave it for the village to see.”

Del. Charles Sydnor, a Democrat who also represents Baltimore County, said Grammer and Darenberg should find better ways to criticize school leaders.

He said Grammer’s “allusion to the lynching and public display” of schools officials “harkens back to a dark period in this state’s history.” He called the rhetoric “dangerous” and said it left him “perplexed” given his past work with Grammer — including their both supporting a bill this year establishing a Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Grammer told The Baltimore Sun on Sunday that his comment — which has been removed — was “absolutely not” intended to reference lynching.

“What I meant is that I don't believe in cutting deals with criminals so that they can walk away without consequence to terrorize another school system,” he wrote in an email to the Sun. “The public should clearly see accountability for corruption. ‘No deal.’”

He did not name anyone he believed was a criminal.

Dance pleaded guilty last year to perjury for failing to disclose to the public and the school board that he earned $147,000 in consulting jobs while superintendent. He went to prison for four months. No other school official has been accused of a crime.

The school board last week named a new superintendent, Darryl L. Williams, passing over Interim Superintendent Verletta White. White, who worked under Dance as chief academic officer, will continue as interim superintendent until June 30.

On Monday, White said she was “saddened” by the comments of Grammer and frustrated with those of Darenberg.

“My parents were born in the mid-1920s and I heard their stories about how they had to really deal with the trauma and the horror of public torture and murder of African American people,” she said. “It saddens me that both of my parents are gone now, and yet I’m seeing these words in 2019.”

White said Darenberg’s comments about “bad players” in the school system were baseless and unfair, and that repeated audits of the system have shown none of the corruption he alleged.

Instead of posting attacks on Facebook, “let's try to move beyond this level of discourse, because our children are watching us,” she said.

White’s contract allows her to stay on as chief academic officer under Williams. She said she is talking with her family about staying with the district after June 30 and “considering all of my options.”

Darenberg said he did not think Grammer’s comment evoked lynching — “If you’re trying to hang Grammer, it’s ridiculous. He wants people held accountable” — and doubled-down on his own claim that county schools leaders are corrupt.

“Parents and the community should be sick of it, because all they are doing is raping our schools,” he said.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., a Democrat, said Grammer’s comment was “insensitive and moreover unnecessary,” and Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, said it was “not constructive or appropriate, and deleting it was the right thing to do.”

Of the post by Darenberg, whom Hogan appointed, Ricci said, “These issues should always be discussed in a positive, forward-looking way worthy of our students.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Doug Donovan contributed to this article.

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